The Salvation Army has received ‘an unprecedented gift’, said Commissioner Andy Westrupp at the highly anticipated launch of the Offering project.
Picking up the famous Army motto of ‘soup, soap and salvation’, the Offering launch began with guests sipping gourmet minestrone soup in vintage enamel Salvation Army mugs. They mingled in the courtyard of Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral in Auckland, to tunes from the Wellington City Corps Band, who played as the sun set.
Offering is the brainchild of Murray Thom and Tim Harper and is a collection of ancient hymns recorded by 15 New Zealand artists, including Stan Walker, Dave Dobbyn, Sol3 Mio and Kimbra. Each hymn has been interpreted by a prominent New Zealand visual artist, in a stunning collection of 12 works.
The launch, on 30 April, was broadcast live on Seven Sharp.
As the time came to move inside, it became clear that Holy Trinity Cathedral was the perfect backdrop for showcasing the beauty of Offering. Stunning stained glassed windows accentuated the light and shade of the art on display, while the cavernous interior of the church enhanced the acoustics of every breath-taking musical performance.
A curved LED screen spanned the entire stage and, while music and art were clearly the stars of the show, at poignant moments the cross that hung above it kept the muse behind each hymn centre stage.
Salvation Army Māori Ministry Kapa Haka sang a beautiful karakia to open the evening. Then MC Petra Bagust declared, ‘I hope you’ve come with open hearts and minds ready to be filled. We want your kete to be full when you leave.
‘You’re going to hear beautiful music and see beautiful art tonight. It will be soup for your soul. It’s about each of us bringing what we’ve got to help care for the poor. That’s the invitation to each of us tonight—bring what you have as an offering. Let’s collaborate together!’
In his opening address, Offering project creator Murray Thom just couldn’t hold back! ‘This is the happiest night of my life! Come on! We’re doing a great thing here and I’m so happy and humbled to see the vision finally realised. Offering is about lifting people’s spirits, strengthening hearts and feeding souls—I was born to do this!’
Murray’s vision behind Offering is, of course, ‘the artists of our time performing the music of all time’. With every recording and visual artist not only participating in the project for free, but also foregoing any future royalties, The Salvation Army is privileged to have been chosen as the recipient of all proceeds now and in the future. As Murray explained this, a standing ovation was the enthusiastic response from the 500 guests.
A spectacular line-up of performances peppered the evening as various Offering artists took the stage. Wooed on stage by Petra for a brief interview, Stan Walker poignantly suggested that, ‘It’s the perfect time for this generation to learn where we come from and whom we come from. There’s so much whakapapa in these hymns.’
During the launch we crossed live to Seven Sharp for Dave Dobbyn’s performance of the 1779 hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. Dave sang alone, centre stage, dwarfed by a visual recording of the accompanying Wellington City Corps Band, resplendent in red, on the screen behind him.
Dave, who Petra dubbed ‘the darling of New Zealand music’, has referred to Salvation Army brass band music as one of Aotearoa’s ‘iconic’ sounds. As the two performed together, the power and truth of both those descriptions strongly resonated around Holy Trinity Cathedral.
‘Thank you for your passion and tenacity,’ Territorial Commander Commissioner Andy Westrupp said, when addressing Murray and Tim.
Andy acknowledged the generosity of the musicians and artists saying, ‘You are helping make God’s love visible. We, as The Salvation Army, are deeply humbled to be recipients of the resources flowing from this wonderful project.’
Andy then presented Murray and Tim with mere pounamu. Captain Hana Seddon explained that greenstone is the most precious of gifts in te o Māori, and therefore an appropriate expression of reciprocity for the gift The Salvation Army was receiving on behalf of the many New Zealanders who would benefit from Offering for years to come.
This presentation was followed by a stirring ‘I’ll Fight’ haka; with Petra stating that the Offering hymns are taonga for our nation. The Salvation Army Kapa Haka group was then joined
on stage by Offering artists for a spine-tingling waiata.
For us as The Salvation Army, Offering is a stunning gift of generosity—a blessing from God that will enable us to continue to do what we do best.
It also celebrates our heritage as a nation under God. Statistically, we may be an increasingly secular society, but passion was evident as artists sang the timeless truths of these hymns. Coupled with the response to Offering by New Zealanders, it suggests that a deep spirituality still exists among Kiwi.
By Jules Badger (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 1 June 2019, p14-15 You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.