Robert Gelinas, lead pastor and resident jazz theologian of Colorado Community Church, uses wonderful & evocative imagery from the world of jazz (think John Coltrane and Miles Davis, not Kenny G) in Finding the Groove to help us dream of the Kingdom of God in fresh ways.  Even for non-jazz fans, Groove’s stories & quotes (e.g., Coltrane’s search for the sound of God) are engaging and helpful in composing a vibrant, jazz-shaped faith.

In Groove, Robert builds on the jazz keynotes of syncopation, improvisation, and call & response to inform and give life to our theology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, mission, and praxis — no small task!  In many ways, Groove is a book for the church — Robert’s thoughts about ensemble community in chapter five are prophetic and powerful — but it is more than a “how-to” workbook.  Groove‘s helped me reconsider the role of tension and suffering in life and community; instead of trying to minimize those things, learning to see them, instead, as means to creativity and engaging life as it really is.

One particular passage stands out for its resonance in pastoral leadership (p.155):

In a jazz ensemble, the drummer is the timekeeper. He sits obscurely in the back, ever keeping the beat, driving the tempo, and signaling time changes. His job is to keep time in a way that sets the others free. He listens and responds to the moments and in the process keeps time for all.  He has the worst seat in the house. Think about it; as he sits in the back all he sees are the backsides of his fellow musicians.  It’s not a great place to see, but it’s a great place to serve

The essence of jazz is listening.

Even if you’ve never listened to Kind of Blue or have no idea who Billie Holiday is, I definitely recommend Finding the Groove.  Sometimes, it is precisely the act of crossing into unfamiliar territory that stirs creativity and imagination.

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