I could write a whole book, of course, just about my relationship with Fisherfolk songs, my enchantment with which defined possibly a whole period in my life, probably my whole approach to worship and my own predilections in contemporary worship songs; and probably still informs who I am today.
Fisherfolk: the touring/performing/recording arm of the Community of Celebration, which in turn emanated from the renewal of community/worship in Houston’s Church of the Redeemer in the 1960s. I was fascinated from the word go –from Michael Harper’s book about the church (‘A New Way of Living’), and my first LPs obtained through Fountain Trust –from their ‘Keyhole’ coffeehouse ministry. Diane Davis would have been one of those singers.
No space here to discuss the far reaching extent of my interest (some might say obsession). Let’s focus on this song. It appears on an album which –unlikely, now –is a recording of an Anglican eucharist service using a liturgical setting composed by Betty Pulkingham, ‘Celebrate the feast.’ This song turns up as one of three or four in the ‘free’ section which presumably accompanies the actual communion time.
When I think of the song now, I think of listening to it while I was living in Aunty Jan’s house (when Graham and Gail went to live in my house, in the early months of their marriage), in the front room, with a record player. That fluidity in our living arrangements and the sense of shared life and community they represent are entirely apposite of course to what I/we were soaking up from the Community of Celebration; or what we were replicating from our own experience of the Spirit’s wind sweeping through us.
For the first of many listens, I got a frisson of excitement each time I heard this song. There was the bell like clarity of Diane’s voice, of course; there was Max Dyer’s always sensitive cello accompaniment; but there were so many other elements blending together too: there was for instance a dangerously bold prophetic voice to the lyric –presuming to speak out the Lord’s words to his people rather than the(more usual) people’s cry to God –in supplication or praise.
Some of the verses were more conventionally acceptable symbols – ‘I am the bread of life/my blood is the wine…’; ‘come to my marriage feast/I’ll remove your tattered garments of sin…’ but the opening verse, repeated with rich harmony and descant at the end, seemed entirely fresher, more original… And of course there were the obvious resonances with Paul Simon’s song of the same name, a more angst ridden celebration of romantic isolation.
But this wasn’t about isolation, this was a stirring voice promising solidity, and together the verses offer a healing invitation to experience divine grace, and life, from the source and foundation of all goodness and love.
A post script of sorts: the first touring performance of the Fisherfolk I ever saw (after this disc?) comprised Diane Davis, Jon Wilkes, Maggie Durren, and Louise Jolly, a pared down travelling team, but still effective. Strangely, (as well as the much reduced but still vitally existent Community of Celebration in Pittsburg), Diane Davis and her husband Bob Andrew are perhaps the most active even today in keeping alive the heritage of blessing gleaned from the multifaceted ministry and creativity streaming outwards from that historic source, compiling as they do the ‘Celebrate the whole of it’ website.