December 29, 2011

people profile: Matt Reece

Before the year is up I am going to share one more guest music post, and of course, I will share my own year-end list as well. But I realized that some of those that read my blog may not be familiar with some of the people I've asked to share their music lists. This is purposeful for a couple of reasons. First, I decided to do this as an extension of music conversations that already exist in my life, not to boost traffic to my site. I wanted to document the music being shared somehow.

Secondly, I'm a bit of a music snob. What I mean is that I'm pretty opinionated about music. I'm okay with people and their particular tastes in just about anything but music. I don't care what sports team you like, what your favorite food is, what movie genres you prefer or how you dress. But I'll tell you if I think you listen to crappy music. Those I've invited to share are people whose taste in music inspires me, impresses me and has exposed me to new music. Most importantly, these are people I treasure. I am wholly proud of my friends. And I'm happy to share this space with them.

Thirdly, when I went into ministry more than a decade ago I realized that there weren't too many church leaders that liked the music I did. I wasn't a jock or academic turned pastor. I was an artist, musician and music fan called to this work. So, the few people I meet with a spiritual kinship and similar interest in music were gold to me.

So, I decided to do "people profiles" on folks I think you should know, or that I at least want to document their unique work in ministry and/or opinions in music. Who knows, maybe I'll go outside of those categories eventually. These will be short interviews both playful and serious. The last guest post was from Matt Reece. So, I'm starting with Matt. Matt is co-conspirator with the Ecclesia Collective, a friend and digs good music. So, without further delay, let me introduce you to him...

Did you have a beard in high school?
Yes.  I played water polo and swam, so grew it out off season, during the summers of my Jr. and Senior year.  Basically looked like a long hair, bearded, grungy hippie surfer type… scary I know!

What’s your earliest music memory?
My earliest music memory is from being really sick as a child.  I had to be in the hospital a lot.  One of the only things that would calm me down is singing.  The song that worked the best?  ‘Amazing Grace.’

My next memory would probably be as a kid listening to AM gold radio on headphones, under the covers at night.  This eventually led to my first concert… The Beach Boys (after a Padres game), when I was 9 or 10 years old.

You’re not only a music fan but a musician yourself. Tell me a little about your background as a musician.
I play guitar and sing, as well as write songs.  I started in music pretty early, taking keyboard lessons and playing violin.  But I wanted to play rock and roll, so guitar it was!

I got really involved in music in church.  For a few years I was a music/worship leader, and spent most of college, at Point Loma Nazarene University, in touring choirs.

Then, what started as basically a garage band with my brother and a friend became a full-fledged band called Via Satellite.  We played sorta dreamy, melodic indie rock, starting back before that was ‘cool.’  I feel like it took a few years for people to get what we were doing… but we played out a lot, developed a bit of a following, recorded several albums, and eventually even received a San Diego Music Award.  Most of the band has gone on to be ‘rock stars’ and tour the world, most notably with Sub Pop band The Album Leaf.  I chose a more simple life I guess!  Since then I’ve played in the SD acoustic scene, and done various other things.

These days, it’s just me and a guitar… but I still play, and hope to have a new recording out there in the not-too-distant future.

I have lots of great stories and memories from music… shows big and small, and playing with some amazing musicians, even guys from bands you might have heard of (like, Mortal and Megadeth).

If you could jam with anyone, who would it be?
Hmmm… maybe, mid-sixties Dylan.  I would love to just be in the room with him when he was writing those songs.  Or I’d rock out with ‘London Calling’ era Clash, or maybe late 70s Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

In what ways does your musical interest or identity as a musician cross paths with your faith and identity as a faith leader?
For me, there are so many intersections between music, faith and leadership.  As a spiritual leader, I want to be an artist.  There are skills that come from the business world that one definitely needs.  But a big part of leadership, for me, is being able to articulate the heart of a people, as well as creatively look forward to where we need to go.  Now we’re heading into the territory of poets, artists and musicians.  And this is what the prophets of old did; they used poetry and symbols to call the community of faith into a preferred creative future.

And on another level… I remember when I was a kid in the 80s going to see a punk rock band, and my Mom being a bit nervous.  But when she picked me up, she was so surprised to see all the kids out front, peacefully hanging out and talking with the band.  Music, for me instinctively was something I wanted to not just observe, but try and do.  And some of the indie bands I loved showed me this was possible.  They tried to break down the walls between the ‘artist’ and the ‘audience.’  The history is well documented here.

So when I picked up a guitar, I almost immediately started writing music and started a band.  This DIY aesthetic has carried over into how I try to live my life and lead a community.  What we need, now more than ever, are communities that draw from the DIY punk rock aesthetic.  The culture of mega-churches with big budgets run by big celebrity personalities, is not only unsustainable, but has basically plateaued in impact.  No more passive religious observers at a big ‘glam rock’ stadium show, instead we need people passionately participating in their local ‘scene,’ like the old school indie rock stuff.

Tell me about Blvd. Abbey.
We are a faith community in the University Heights/Uptown San Diego area.  We’re called Blvd Abbey, because the area we’re in has a big vintage neon sign that says ‘The Blvd.’  And an abbey is a spiritual community that centers itself around intentional common spiritual practice.  We respectfully borrow a bit from that tradition, and want to help people all across the spectrum- from those who are spiritual seekers, to those who strongly resonate with the Jesus story- to be shaped by spiritual rhythms and practices that lean towards God, and God’s beautiful dream for the world.

We are small and very relationally structured, and believe faith community should happen ‘from the ground up.’  And we want to be a community that cares about our neighborhood and city.  We try to find simple/do-able ways to partner with the good that is already happening, as well as embody God’s love and grace where there is need.

We are connected with a unique church planting network called ‘Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO).’  C4SO has started communities all up the West Coast and beyond that are; rooted in Anglican tradition, and both spiritual formation and missionally shaped.

Why did you want to start the Abbey?
A few friends and I started dreaming together, and they said ‘if you start something, we’ll join you.’  And it just kind of grew from there.

I have seen several things that we, as the church, have yet to truly take seriously:  1. Creating space for real community, 2. Spiritual formation (as a community, not just individually!), and 3. Seeing ourselves as a tangible expression of God’s love and mission in our neighborhood.  So, for me, Blvd Abbey is really an experiment in community… trying to take all of that seriously, and start there- structure a community around that- before all the stuff people think of as ‘normal’ church.

What are your dreams for the Abbey?
My hope and prayer is that we continue to do what we’re doing, and grow that even deeper, while building sustainable community.

Ultimately I would love to be a community that holds two things in tension… First, to be a community that at it’s core is made up of ‘urban monastics.’  Though we don’t all live together, we all live in and care for the same area, and see all of our lives- work, play, relationships, compassionate action, creative endeavors- as spiritual and connected to a larger story.  And secondly, I’d love to be a community where we interact and build friendships with those who aren’t people of faith, and they say, ‘that community really, genuinely cares.’

I would eventually even love to be kind of a formation/training center.  To create space where leaders, or potential leaders, from other places can come for spiritual re-centering, to experience life in the city or how we do community, and maybe learn some practices they can take back with them.

How can people find out more about Abbey or get involved?
To find out more about us go to blvdabbey.com.
Join us on Facebook.
Every once in a while I post on our blog.

And to find out where we meet and get involved, email me: matt@blvdabbey.com

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