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CD Review: Some Assembly Required by Angus Sutherland

I finally got around to ordering the CD “Some Assembly Required” from the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  For a G.A. Junkie this CD is a gem.

First, let me dispel any misconceptions.  This is not your typical CD of Christian music.  You won’t see it on the best seller charts.  It won’t be earning any Dove Awards.  To my knowledge this CD is one of a kind.

But, if you are a Presbyterian who understands and appreciates the nuances and idiosyncrasies of our Presbyterian system of government, and you don’t mind some humor about it in music, then you will probably get a kick out of this collection of seven songs.

And this album is worth every penny of the $Can 15 that it costs if for no other reason than the proceeds go to the Presbyterian World Service and Development Agency (PWS&D).

The Rev. Angus Sutherland has put together a set of seven novelty songs about Presbyterians in general and our system of government in particular.  I bought the album on the strength of the song “The Clerk’s Rant” which is available from the PCC web site.  It was a rap-style song with clever rhymes and witty lyrics from a clerk delivering, in a very typical “clerk tone,” guidance on parlimentary procedure for making motions and amendments.  Having now heard the rest of the album I can say that there is more clever song writing that I enjoyed.  For example, the second verse of the song “Decently and In Order” (sung to the tune Scotland the Brave with a whole bunch of extra syllables in the last line)

The people can be picky.
Ministry can be tricky.
The situation sticky.
What will you do?
When life is going faster,
It’s hard to be a pastor.
So when you face disaster,
What pulls you through?

We have the answer here
to help disperse your fear.
When you are lost here is one place you can come for answers.
When they will give no quarter,
Here’s how you meet disorder:
Decently and in Order,
And according to the Book of Forms.

(And as you probably guessed, the Book of Forms is very similar to, but not exactly the same as, the Book of Church Order or Book of Order.  The official documents of the PCC are the Acts of Assembly and the Book of Forms is updated regularly, but not annually, to reflect the Acts.)

It is also interesting to consider how universal the “Presbyterian experience” is.  The song “Moderator” (words and music by Mr. Sutherland) tells the story of a supposedly straight-forward committee report on the floor of the Assembly and the amendments and motions it is subjected to.  Here are the second and third verses, each of which is in a different voice invoking the requests of different GA commissioners:

Moderator, Moderator, Over here at microphone one.
I’m intending to be amending for so much is left undone.
Isn’t it a pity, don’t it make you blue.
Clearly the committee hasn’t thought the whole thing through.
Moderator, Moderator, my amendment’s on the floor.

Moderator, Moderator, I am standing — hear my plea.
The punctuation situation needs correction theologically.
If we place a comma after the word “and”
There will be no trauma and all will understand.
If those moving are approving, I propose this vital change.

Haven’t we all been there at one time or another.  And as a bit of an inside joke, the committee that is reporting is the Committee on History for which the Rev. Sutherland is the convener.

The strength of the album in my mind are the five songs more specific to Presbyterian governance.  There are two songs more general to the PCC and Presbyterianism:  “PWS&D” and “We are called.”  While interesting they don’t have the same resonance with me as the Assembly songs do.

So again, this album is not for everyone.  But for the rare breed versed in Presbyterian polity, parliamentary procedure, and the ways of General Assembly or other courts of the church this album will surely being a smile to your face.  Enjoy.