Reverend Robert Jones, Sr.
Musician, Teacher, Storyteller, Artist
(scroll down for brief reflection on process theology and the blues)
Robert Jones is a native Detroiter and he has played for a wide variety of groups and causes, including--YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, Focus HOPE, the NAACP, the Grey Panthers, Habitat For Humanity in Michigan and Mississipi, the ACLU, Empty Bowls, Freedom House of Detroit, MI, and others.
Robert specializes in the kind of music and stories that have traditionally motivated and sparked social change throughout history.
-- from the Robert Jones website: http://revrobertjones.com/
Teaching and Sharing Through Music:
Process Theology and the Blues
If you study the world's cultures and religions, you realize that people have embodied and valued different spiritual moods. A spiritual mood is a way of interacting with the world from a subjective point of view. The philosopher Whitehead calls it a subjective form. It is how a person experiences and responds to the world emotionally and cognitively, from a first-person point of view.
Some people separate emotion and cognition, as if they were entirely different; but those of us who are influenced by process theology know that the two go together. We know things through feeling and we feel things through knowing. When a mathematician delights in the clarity of a mathematical proof, she is feeling its truth. And when a blues singer bemoans being left by her lover, she is knowing the truth of abandonment. The spiritual moods valued by the world's cultures and religions are best understood as modes of knowing and feeling.
Art and music and storytelling are ways of sharing these moods so that others can feel and know them, too. The ministry of Robert and Bernice Jones is to help people understand some of the moods that have been especially influential in the United States: true grit, prophetic spirituality, skepticism and doubt, feeling loved and guided by God, humor and playfulness, and creative transformation. You can hear them all in the blues. This is not surprising because, after all, music is what feelings sound like and stories are how feelings unfold in the nitty-gritty of daily life. The blues combine music and stories to present the grittiness of life in its pain and splendor.
And along the way, explains Robert Jones, they tell some history. Consider the program he offers to schools:
The program begins with early spirituals set in the 1840s and progresses through the songs of the Underground Railroad, the Industrial Revolution, early Blues and its offshoots Country, Jazz, Bluegrass, Gospel and R&B, and continues this journey into Rap and Hip-Hop.
Now if that isn't process theology, I don't know what is. But of course process theology is not progress theology. American history is not a story of sanctification. It is a story of domination, injustice, conquest, imperialism, cruelty, love, hope, beauty, freedom, slavery, abuse, madness, humility, friendship, weakness, courage, and humility, kept promises, and broken promises. It is a lot like the story of Israel in the Hebrew Bible. The creative transformation of roots music to rap music is an important part of this story, and the story continues to this day.
Is the story a spiraling out of control, or a spiraling toward hope and freedom, or both? Process theology sees God at the center of the spiral, but also knows that even the angels can fall short of the beckoning toward freedom and mercy. If the angels fall short, how much more can we humans fall short of, but sometimes fall in love with, the Center in which the whole of creation is held with tender care. The blues tell both sides of the story: the falling short of love and the falling into love. In this and so many other ways, the blues are windows into a human relation with something wide and deep, whose story is not yet finished.