I wrote a song – because I had to! There was no other way.

I wrote a song – because I had to! There was no other way.

16

St Mary’s Anglican Church Timaru looks and feels like a cathedral, but it is not. Pauline and I worked there with Archdeacon Robin Smith for 3 months in 1987. We had a wonderful time.
Through various events we made friends with many young families. However, when it came to attending church, only the women were present. When I asked one of my new friends why this was so, he said, “I’m not a churchy kind of bloke. I feel more at home in a bar than in church. And I don’t relate to the organ and church music. I’ve made a few mistakes you know. And when I get mad, I swear a bit.” I said that was OK and that the church needed him and that he and his family needed the church. But I could see he was not convinced.
The conversation worried me. I think many men would say exactly what he said. The notion was that Church was for men who were quiet, classical music-loving, tie-wearing and who had never mucked up.

I wanted to attack this stereo type. But how? Then it dawned on me. A song might do it. But where could a find such a song? I drew a blank.

Then it came to me, I would have to write the song. I don’t pay any instrument nor can I read music. But with God helping me, I was determined to do it. And I did. In under an hour it was all there, words and music and I sang it into a tape recorder.
The song that came to me had the sound of a pub, a beer hall in fact. I asked the organist of the impressive St Mary’s pipe organ if the organ could make an ‘Oom pa, pah’ sound. “Certainly”, he said and immediately the holy space was shaken by an unfamiliar tone. And that’s how my song/hymn ‘Christians are all kinds of people’ came to be written’. It was sung with gusto at Timaru and is now included in a book of New Zealand hymns and songs. (Hope is Our Song – the NZ Hymnbook Trust).

One of the lyric lines in the first verse has caused me a bit of strife. It, goes, ‘Christians are all kinds of people, not even particularly good’. Well that has stuck in a few throats. In some copies of the song I have seen this line rewritten. One read ‘Christian’s are all kinds of people, the sweet and the kind and the good’. That is not what I had in mind.

Actually I think people who are (or who think they are) sweet and kind and good don’t need Christianity. I think the Christian faith is for those who feel the opposite – like my friend who prompted the song.

Over the years I have known a lot of good (honest, reliable, thoughtful) people who never go near a church. On the other hand, I have known some church attenders who give the appearance of being ‘good’ but, in my view are not that at all. The author, Scott Peck in his book, ‘The People of the Lie’, asserts that it is not uncommon for really ‘evil’ people to try to disguise their true nature by church attendance.

And as for business dealings, experience has taught me that I have to be quite canny when doing a deal with someone who announces he/she is a Christian. When it is a matter of the dollar, Christians are as likely as anyone to pursue the deal that favours them.

Early in my ministry I encountered a ‘Christian’ car salesman.  He told me that the Lord had led me to him and to one car in particular. He had me sit in the car while in prayer he thanked Jesus for his leading me to this vehicle (and to him). Actually, I was thinking of going to another car yard! His prayer stopped me in my tracks. As the result of this experience I am now cautious whenever a sales person suggests that a ‘deal’ has divine blessing on it.

Another thing, early in life I had gained the impression that becoming a Christian would result in a certain personality type. But it was through reading the Bible that I realized that the prophets, preachers and kings had all kinds of personalities.

Consequently, I included the line ‘Christians are all kinds of people, they’re smilers, they’re grouches, they’re clowns’. ‘Smilers’. When I as a teen attending Christian conventions, it was impressed on me that Christians smiled a lot – reflecting the joy of the Lord. From then on I certainly put a lot of effort into smiling. I remember teaching children in a bush SundaySchool a little ditty that went, “Smiling all the time, smiling all the time, smiling for Jesus, beams of light divine’. It makes me shudder to think I did this. “Clowns.”  Some people who hide their true feeling by telling non-stop jokes and wise-cracks. Sometimes I am like this myself ‘Grouchers’. Now this is even more personal. In my first months in St Heliers some of the staff named me, ‘Rev Grumpy’. It was a relief to me when I realised that lots of the heroes of faith in the Bible were definitely grouchy. After this list of Moods, I added the words ‘Sometimes all kinds (of moods) are in me’. I wanted to make the point that moods are no indication as to whether or not the person is connected or disconnected from the Jesus spirit.

Here is another lyric line. ‘God uses all kinds of people, with problems, with hang-ups, with scars’. Whilst in Timaru a number of persons had shared about nervous and psychiatric problems. These people assumed that were of no further use as vehicles for the love of God. It simply is not true. I concluded each verse with the words, ‘But God’s love is mighty and that is what counts, with mercy as wide as the sea, it reaches to you and to me’. For everyone, it is all about the goodness of God.  At the foot of the cross the ground is level.

16-1

 

Without realizing what was happening, we drifted into collecting model churches. Now we have over 200 of them. Why? Over the years we have worked for a great variety of churches from different traditions, high and low church. This is what I have come to believe. All churches in one way or another focus on Jesus. I think that often traditions, liturgical forms and attitudes shackle the truth about Jesus. However, that is rather like putting a lion in a straightjacket.  Somewhere, somehow the spirit of Jesus breaks through all the trappings. I encourage people to think about Jesus and seek to contact him in any way they can. Whenever this happens, light will shine in darkness.

The little song I wrote all those years ago still sounds true to me. It is amazing what you can do when you have to!

Stan Stewart    

Oom pa ha  Oom pa ha
Christians are all kinds of people
They’re average, they’re short and they’re tall
From all kinds of background, with all kinds of outlooks
Our gracious God uses them all
Christians are all kinds of people
Not even especially good
But God’s love is mighty and that is what counts
With mercy as wide as the sea, it reaches to you and to me

Oom pa ha  Oom pa ha
Christians are all kinds of people
They’re smilers, they’re grouchers, they’re clowns
In all kinds of weather, whenever they gather
You’ll find every kind of them round
Christians are all kinds of people
And sometimes all kinds are in me
But God’s love is mighty and that is what counts
With mercy as wide as the sea, it reaches to you and to me

Oom pa ha  Oom pa ha
God uses all kinds of people
The black and the pale and the tan
New-born and the aged, the fit and disabled
They all play a part in the plan
God uses all kinds of people
With problems, with hang-ups, with scars
But God’s love is mighty and that is what counts
With mercy as wide as the sea, it reaches to you and to me

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