It was good to have a brief break from blogging to make space for sea, sand and sunshine (most of the time), and a few ice creams on the Island of Jersey.
At the end of the holiday we took advantage of the opportunity to see the West End show Beautiful which visited Eastbourne on its tour outside of London.
Beautiful tells the gripping story of the astonishing singer-songwriter Carole King and her collaborator and one-time husband Jerry Goffin. Together they wrote some of the best-selling hits of the 50’s and 60’s for acts like The Shirells, The Drifters, Little Eva and Aretha Franklin.
What I found so fascinating was eavesdropping on the process of writing so many hit songs. Sometimes it began with a tune to which Goffin wrote the lyrics and sometimes it was the other way around.
Then there was the task of identifying the right act to record the song. A well-written song sung by the right voice at the right time usually led to one hit after another. When these things all come together the result is beautiful.
In 1971 Carole King recorded an album that mainly featured songs she had written in response to the pain of her broken marriage. The album Tapestry become a multi-Grammy winner and forms the basis for the hit musical Beautiful.
Carole King had found her own voice. Instead of writing songs for other people she was able to write songs that told her own story in her own voice.
Miles Davis, the innovative Jazz trumpeter and band leader said,
“Sometimes you need to play for a long time to sound like yourself.”
This is an important point for preachers to grasp. We might not find our authentic preaching voice immediately. We tend to learn by imitation as we echo the preaching voices that we have heard which have impressed, helped and shaped us.
When I was a theology student in the 1970s the students at our college near Cardiff felt that their preaching would be greatly improved in they developed a Welsh accent.
The Welsh preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones was a particular preaching hero at the time and all the students, including those from England, wanted to sound like him. The result was that instead of sounding compelling they sounded weird!
Carole King concludes her album Tapestry with a song she had co-written with Jerry Goffin. The song (You make me feel like a) Natural Woman had been recorded originally by the inimitable Aretha Franklin. In Carole King’s rendition the deep feeling of this anthem is captured so well by the songwriter playing the piano and singing her own song.
Preaching the distinctive voices of scripture with our own individual voice can be a beautiful thing; it creates a moment where the preacher can say, “I feel like a natural preacher!”
Have you preached long enough to find your own voice?
Your congregation will thank you for the beautiful authenticity of a fresh voice, rather than the second-rate echo of another preacher’s voice.