New Age Loon: The Maundy Thursday service takes First Church by storm

Shandra Wanamaker: I don't care what my father says about this whole mess. In my mind nothing would have happened if any other pianist played that music. The fact is, lots of people can't stand the way Jennifer dresses.

Jack Elsons: As elders, we had no choice. People are so scared about this New Age stuff that even a scent of it in our church is enough to start a whole round of witchcraft trials. If we did nothing, the whole place would have gone up in smoke. We had no choice.

Richard Smith: I never heard the music, I swear. Right away afterward, the wife says to me, "I loved that music that strange girl played, but I never heard of it before." I says to her, "What music?" And she says, "The music that Brasser girl played during communion." "Never heard it," I told her. I say it's a lot of hooey about nothing.

Phyllis Armstrong: I can't help thinking that the entire Maundy Thursday communion service was almost, like, taken over by the devil. God sure can't be pleased. I mean, I didn't know it at the time—thank God, I didn't—that the music she was playing was actually New Age. But can you imagine? While we were receiving the bread and wine, that girl played New Age music! Something has to be done.

Damon Sneller: I don't even know what music everybody's talking about. If I'd hear that music today, I don't think I'd recognize it. I was serving the bread and the wine. There isn't a job connected with being elder that I love more.

Peter Perry: All this would never have happened if we had a real preacher, and not a lollipop. The problem with Mas-sengale is he thinks a smile will cure everything. The simple truth is that girl was playing NEW AGE! Do we have to spell it out?

Marcia Wallraven: What I remember thinking as she was playing was how beautiful it sounded. At least Jennifer didn't bang on the keyboard like the rest of the pianists do. Sometimes I think there's a contest between them to see who can hit the piano the hardest. I loved the silence of that piece—and I loved it the very moment it was played.

Phyllis Vande Kamp: None of this would have happened if I hadn't asked Jennifer the title of the piece. Sometimes I think it's all my fault. I admit it—I loved that music. I thought it was perfectly apropos—serious, meditative, thoughtful. That's why I wanted to know the title. When Jennifer told me, I told some others. I shouldn't have. If I hadn't asked, nobody would have known it was New Age—whatever that is.

Amanda Foreman: You can imagine what I thought when I heard the title. "New Age Loon"—really. During our communion, Jennifer Brasser played "New Age Loon"! I hardly dare to repeat it. I might be struck by lightning.

Jennifer Brasser: I played it because I loved it—pure and simple. I heard it on this CD my parents brought back from Minnesota, New Age Loon. I thought it was beautiful. The Lord gave me the ability to hear music and play it by ear. So I played it.

I'm sorry. I want to play what I think is beautiful—no matter where it comes from. I've studied music history, and let me tell you, Mozart was no saint. Handel wrote a lot of other stuff beside the Messiah too. People seem to think everything we sing or listen to in church is written by some saint. But that's nonsense.

What nobody takes the time to discuss in this church is what does sacred mean anyway? What is sacred music? Who makes it sacred? Do we ever talk about sacred painting? This church is so anti-intellectual that I'm leaving. IVe just had it—this is the last straw.

Bart Evans: I had to bowl that night, so I never heard the music. But I never been in favor of this Maundy Thursday stuff. We never used to have it. Whatever happened to Good Friday? I mean, some businesses shut down awhile on Good Friday and we don't even go to church.

Armand Ellsworth: You know, the whole thing is just typical First Church. Somebody does something a little bit eccentric, and immediately a heresy meter lights up somewhere, and the whole thing turns into a barroom brawl.

Ann Vergowe: I wish someone would tell me what this New Age business is all about. Is it like witchcraft?

Reggie Laanders: I feel dumb. When I walked out of that service, I said to the wife, "That's one of the most touching communion services I've ever been at." Really, those were my exact words. What I want to know is, am I that stupid?

Clarence Vander Zwaag: Here's the whole thing in a nutshell. Years ago, our church went through this big Faith Power Experience—dozens of grow groups. It was a shot at a revival. Phyllis Armstrong, like some others, suddenly got spiritual. Jennifer's parents didn't. There was a lot of conflict. Eventually, it stopped boiling, but it's been on a simmer ever since. New Age, Blue Age—the whole thing dates from Faith Power. That's the real story.

Rev. Massengale: I'm sorry, but I refuse to act like some censorship board. I'm not about to police every last piece of music that's played in our church. At last count we had 14 marriages floundering, 23 young adults not coming to church, 3 cases of nearly chronic depression, and a community full of people who have no church home. It seems to me that the job of the church is proclaiming the gospel. I don't have time to take a Geiger counter to the music our pianists play. Besides, I respect them too much to be constantly looking over their shoulders.

Bertie Brinkhuls: I wasn't bothered by it. All I remember thinking was that I couldn't place the music. But then, there's been so much new music in our church in the last few years. Why, everything the young people sing is new. During the youth service, I didn't know one piece— not a one!

Lanny Mulder: I don't know what New Age music is, but I do know that I just love it when some of those women bang those keys—you know what I mean? That thrills me.

Becky Baron: I don't care if it was New Age, I think it's really bad when we've got to lose Jennifer because of it. How closed-minded.

Allison Moret: You know, I remember seeing Rodney King at the height of all the riots. He said—maybe you remember—"Can't we all get along?" And I thought to myself, he wasn't just speaking about Los Angeles. He was also talking to First Church. He really was. Can't we all get along?

Brenda Massengale: This whole thing makes it very clear to me that my mother made a mistake in marrying a preacher. Not that I don't love my father—I do. And they love each other too. But me?— I'd rather marry a dairyman. I don't think anyone really understands what preachers have to go through today. I can't wait for September when I get to go back to college.

Ferris Cicano: The last time we had communion Amanda Foreman sang while the bread and wine were being passed. I'm sorry but she always makes me shiver—she screeches. To me, Jennifer's music was much less scary. I don't care what anyone says.

William Wanamaker: I've been listening to Dobson, and I've been reading up on this New Age business. It's very dangerous because it sneaks in everywhere. There are profs at Zurich College who flirt with it—I'm serious. That's probably where the Brasser girl picked it up. It's insidious. And the god of the New Age is not the God of the Bible. Some people just don't want to draw lines anywhere. They're always afraid of hurting someone's feelings. It's the gospel that's at stake here. The elders simply have to act.

Note in First Church bulletin: At the August consistory meeting, the elders reviewed the shepherding group concept, went through the joys and concerns of the congregation, approved a list of Sunday School teachers for the upcoming term, and then discussed the place of music in our worship. Afterwards, Jack Elsons served up a delicious lunch.

Thanks, Jack!

James Calvin Schaap (jschaap@dordt.edu) is a writer and professor of English at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.