The phrase “swan song” is a reference to an ancient belief that the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is completely mute during its lifetime until the moment just before it dies, when it sings one beautiful song.1
Have you ever considered these questions: When you go to a church full of Asian-Americans and you close your eyes, what do you hear? Would you be able to detect any distinctiveness coming from our ethnicity or culture? When you read the words on the screen, who penned those words? Where is the melody of our ancestors? Are these even valid questions at all?
On Thursday, Dec 4th, Professor Paul Huh of Columbia Theological Seminary will lead us in singing worship songs to the tune of our ancestors. Reminiscent of Western monastic singing, the eastern style of worship has simple, meditative, and powerful melodies that centers the worshiper.
Professor Huh’s research interests include liturgical musicology, space, time, history, theology, and arts in both Korean and North American settings. Additionally, he is interested in the praxis of bilingual/bicultural performing, designing, leading, and evaluating worship in an ecumenical setting.
Perhaps the swan song metaphor is a bit much, but I feel that in order to be healthy with regards to the notion of culture, we must acknowledge that many of us as second generation Asian Americans have been silent in our worship for our entire lives. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve borrowed hymns and praises, but they have not been ours and we have been mute – all of which makes me wonder if there is a beautiful swan song welling up in us and if this generation is dying in terms of church, is there a song for us to sing on the way out? or on the way in?