United Church minister moves to the spirit of rock
By Jonathan Charlton
The minister at Memorial United Church in Murray River is taking his rock band on the road this weekend to share his music and message with others.
Keith Gale and The Heretics played their first show Wednesday night in Murray River to a crowd of about 80 people.
“I thought that was a pretty good turnout for the middle of fishing season in Murray River,” Mr Gale said.
The band will play Charlottetown Thursday, followed by a gig each in Moncton and Halifax.
“For one, it sounded like a lot of fun to do, and I think this is the only way, if you are a musician, to get your music out there,” Mr Gale said.
“I love live music and I just want to be a part of that.”
The band performed from the album “Take Me,” recorded in January.
The songs on “Take Me” cover a lot of musical ground, from the sunny indie-pop of “All the Best” to the minor key, driving “Prodigal Son.”
Avoiding the saccharine sentiment that can undermine some Christian rock, Minister Gale’s music both celebrates and reflects on spirituality.
“I’ve done it before, but this is the first specifically Christian music I’ve written. Songwriting has just always been a part of who I am, since I was 13.”
The lyrics are autobiographical, following his alternately difficult and rewarding journey in faith. His great-grandmother predicted he’d become a minister (though in the Presbyterian Church), but his journey really began when, while working in his early 20s as an unhappy computer programmer, he read through the scriptures.
“It’s one of the common journeys, of us trying to figure out what on Earth we’re here for and what we’re supposed to be doing with this time we’ve been gifted. At certain parts of my life I think I’ve been rather selfish ... When I read the scriptures, something changed in my heart and I decided I should at least try to live in a way that might be more giving.
“But I fail, and I think the music is a lot about that, the trying and failing and God’s grace in the midst of that.”
Three previous recordings he’d done were personal projects, but for “Take Me” he was more aware of a wider audience.
“The lyrics and music are still very personal, but I’m speaking as a witness to others to say this is my journey, I really hope others are inspired by it too.”
The music isn’t meant to be necessarily Christian, but to encourage listeners to take the spiritual side of life seriously and to wrestle with the questions themselves.
And with “Theology Is Not Religion,” he encourages people of different faiths to seek those answers together.
“I really had hoped people would take that song and read into it as they wanted. For me, Christ is instrumental in opening up my heart to something bigger than myself. And I don’t think Christ is the only path to that.
So I wanted to testify that there are other ways to understand God that may not resonate as deeply with me, but at the same time I think are no less equal.”
But the song also has a message for hard line Christians.
“I also want to challenge those Christians that say Jesus is the only way. Although there are one or two spots in the scriptures where it seems Jesus is saying that, I think that’s a fairly narrow interpretation of the scriptures. I think the wider interpretation of the scriptures condemns that kind of attitude, my way or the highway.”
While Mr Gale has also expressed himself through poetry and painting, playing music resonates with him.
“There’s something about music where that connection with the spiritual seems to just open up that much wider, and some of those transcendental moments when time and space don’t seem to matter so much anymore and you kind of tap into something that might be wider or broader that we could ever understand, that mystery that is life.”