How Adele Saved the World: A Story of Hope

We watched in horror. Almost too sad to put our lament into words, many defaulted to a red, blue, and white filter over their profile pic. The most romantic city in the world, for the second time in a year, had been the target of devastation. As the glow of the City of Light struggled to shine through the smoke and debris, here in America we tried our best to express hope and courage. This loss of words, though, quickly reversed into chaos.

Grieving over Paris

One week we were unified with a country that was experiencing their own 9/11, the next we were at war with ourselves over the fate of the Syrian refugees, the punctuation on an era in American history plagued by polarizing stances. Then out of the fog of your friends, neighbors, and semi-acquaintances all-caps-yelling at one another, the silky, smooth vibrations of a lioness roared out…”Hello.”

Adele brought the world together. We laughed as Saturday Night Live drew attention to the phenomenon of her newest release “25,” but it is grounded in clear truth. The anger, the lament, the yelling, the hurt, the chaos of the news cycle bowed to the belting persona Slate calls, “foul-mouthed and self-deprecating, with a thick North London accent, [resembling] a Brit version of Jennifer Lawrence except unapologetically plus-sized.”

Adele making a funny face on SNL

Adele took over the world, it happened, proven now as we all say bye, bye, bye to Nsync’s 15-year-old record of albums sold in a week. But, as she was conquering us all, she might have also saved us all. Is it her voice? Is it her timeless melodies? Is it her relatable lyrics? Is it her down-to-earth demeanor? Yes, all of it. Adele is unique, but speaks for us all. Here are three ways Adele saved the world.

1.) She demanded silence

Her previous albums, that have now sold over 30 million copies, taught us how to grieve the losses of life. Unfortunately, they left us there. It was like a grief counselor perfectly describing why you feel crumby followed by, “Now all you need to do to move on and feel better is…” We have been waiting four years on that ellipsis! Paused, holding our breath, an ear to the world listening for her to complete her next sentence. Then it came and we all shut up to listen. It is a voice that demands respect, a voice that fills our ears like it belongs there. It belongs there because Adele holds a specific place in our lives.

2.) She became our big sister

With 19 and 21, Adele was introduced to us as a best friend. She was lyrically going through what we’ve all gone through. She sat at our Sex and the City brunch table, sipping her cosmo shooting the breeze about her break up through her delightful Cockney cackle. Now, though, Adele has matured and transitioned from our best gal pal to our big sister. The gap from your teen/early twenties into almost-thirties is a canyon of failures, successes, wisdom, and obliviousness that lays a lot of the foundation of who we become as we live out rest of our lives and with 25 Adele sure is living. She’s moving on and bringing us with her. She is sitting on the edge of our bed with us saying, don’t worry younger sibling, your heart will mend, there is hope. 25 still cuts with the shards of fresh breaks but is complex enough to exhibit her growth as an artist and a person.

3.) She gives millennials a good name

And our generation is complex! We don’t have the luxury our previous generations have of a more black and white society and we are just now getting over the ignorance of our youth. As the millennial generation matures we need more distinct voices to put the words to our shades of gray. Those same words we were searching for under the rubble of our political polarization. Our generation so far has largely been defined by YouTube rants and selfie captions, but we are maturing past the doodled on pages of our diaries. We are starting to see the world. We are starting to get involved and cast vision for the future. Now Adele is our soundtrack for that.

Adele 25

There is so much about our world that doesn’t make sense right now. As we try to make sense of it all, the power Adele has flexed this week gives us hope. Simultaneously, as she asks her lover in “All I Ask,” “what if I never love again?,” the response to her album proves that, even after four years of silence, we will love again. We will hurt again. We will cry again. But absolutely, undeniably we will love again.

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In Defense of Tradition

I would like to think of myself as a creative person. My role with the CCO is to develop new ministries and have a vision for God to bring about new outreaches that have never been before. I get bored with routine and am energized by change. I share photographer Diane Arbus’s sentiment, “My favorite thing is to go where I have never been.” And yet I have found a home in the structure and tradition of the Anglican Church. How do creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand with centuries of sameness?

The dominant cultural narrative would say that they don’t. The message most young people are receiving is that freedom inherently means a lack of parameters and expectations. The goal is to be completely unique and unrestrained by anything that has come before. One of the best examples of this is ABC Family’s decision to change the name of their network to “Freeform.” Their promo about the shift says it all.

Free to be whoever you want however you want. There can be appealing aspects to this, and that message can also be deeply burdensome and overwhelming. That’s a lot of pressure to reinvent the wheel every day and astound people with your innovations. How might joining something bigger than our individual creativity enable us to experience a different kind of freedom?

When the Book of Common Prayer was compiled in England in 1549, it was in response to a church trend that had made prayer and scripture reading exclusive to priests. It was not considered normal or possible for the average person to access God in their personal lives or in their homes. Thomas Cranmer’s goal was to make prayer common, to teach people how to pray in their hearts and with their families. The BCP includes a lectionary of scripture readings to read each day throughout the year, and several prayer services and “collects” (themed prayers) to guide Christians into rhythms of prayer throughout their day. All of this was to draw people into community with one another and communion with Christ through prayer, scripture and worship. It was not meant to be restrictive or the end-point of prayer. Rather, a guide to focus our minds and hearts on the things of God and to lead us into further communion and worship.

Thomas-Cranmer

I came into the Anglican Church during a dark season in my life. My brother had been killed a year and a half earlier, and I was still in the midst of grief and depression. Much of the time I thought I would never feel whole again, and I felt abandoned by God. As a result, I had great difficulty praying because it didn’t seem like God wanted to hear from me. The liturgy was very new for me and at first seemed weird, but as I spent time with it the BCP gave me the words I hadn’t been able to generate myself but with which I desperately wanted to agree. It taught me to pray again as I repeatedly heard the Assurance of Pardon and the expression that God was for his people and not against us. Every time we celebrated Communion I was reminded, “The body of Christ, broken for you”, and “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” I heard that truth in my own heart and in the Lord ’s Supper was drawn near to Christ being made one with my brothers and sisters. I was no longer alone and adrift, but was part of an immediate church family as well as my historic/global community of faith.

The Global Anglican Fellowship Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. over 1500 people from 31 countries worshiping together

The Global Anglican Fellowship Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. over 1500 people from 31 countries worshiping together

Something else began to be opened up for me. Not only did I receive the peace and joy of Christ’s grace and mercy, but I started to hear God’s voice in new ways. In that peaceful space I was able to cultivate an attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit. For me personally (this is not true for everyone and that is 100% ok), I am distracted in worship services that are unpredictable. I tend to be on edge in those environments and am so worried about what’s happening next that it pulls me out of my focus on God. But the structure of liturgy created focus and peace for me that then opened me up to receive more from God. I experienced freedom and creativity in the rhythms of the prayer book and was drawn deeper into the life of the Spirit in worship. Tradition didn’t shut me down and limit me, it opened me up. Prayer and scripture became part of me in new ways that gave me fresh unity with Jesus. I grew in my faith, in my understanding of who God is to me and to the world, and in the knowledge that we serve an eternal God in whom there is no changing.

The historical church has certainly been guilty of misuses of the Bible to oppress people groups. I am not contending that tradition is flawless in every area. But the practices that have enriched and shaped the Church for generations do not need to be abandoned.  They can provide a beautiful opportunity to experience the peace and freedom of being guided into the presence of God. As we join with our brothers and sisters throughout the ages we’re primed to receive a new and personal relationship with our Savior. In being relieved of the anxiety of self-generated spirituality, we just might enter into God’s limitless presence.

Early Evening Collect

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.