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Rich Mullins
[ a liturgy, a legacy and a ragamuffin band ]


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A Liturgy, A Legacy And A Ragamuffin Band - Click to view! When I was 13, I had no idea I would become a poet. 13-year-olds don't generally understand the formulaic principles of Shakespearian sonnets, French vignettes, and the free-form style, which has its own understood form. All I knew was that I absolutely loved the way Rich Mullins phrased his songs.

I also did not have a good grasp on the principles of music. I did not understand the hip music culture created for teenage girls in the early 90s. All I knew was that I loved to sing, and the music on A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band inspired me to sing—unlike any of the Top 40 hits.

Looking back today, I see that I understood this album more than I imagined. Children often grasp the importance of liturgy and legacy before busy, self-absorbed adults. They're the ones who dream of pink castles, horses with wings, and the opportunity to leave a stamp of greatness on the world. In coming like a child, Rich Mullins weaved a project that can only be compared to C.S. Lewis' Narnia series. This album is one of danger and drama, of rising waves and crashing moons. "52:10" sounds the alarm ("The Lord has bared His holy arm"), and the piano, drums, and violins reflect a Celtic warrior cry. The grandeur of the ballad could almost be gaudy in presentation, but it keeps away from this stereotype by Mullins' rough vocals, reminiscent of freshly plowed farmland. As the song blends into "The Color Green," we exchange the grandeur of the heavens for the majesty of God's handiwork in the earth. When reflecting on some of my personal inspirations, "The Color Green" remains in the top ten. This is poetry at its finest: "And the moon is a sliver of silver / Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter's shop / ...And the streams are all swollen with winter / Winter unfrozen, and free to run away now." The music rises once more to Celtic splendor, weaving the images like delicate spider webs dotted with morning dew. The chorus offers a jolly rendition of wooden recorders, and one can almost picture field hands dancing an ancient Irish jig.

Rich Mullins captured an entire cosmos of beauty and managed to shrink it onto one CD. This is the project that brought "Hold Me Jesus," a simple prayer for peace: "Hold me Jesus / 'Cause I'm shaking like a leaf / You have been King of my glory / Won't You be my Prince of peace." This is the project that holds a modern rendition of the Credo from ancient church tradition. And by mirroring the Agnus Dei, Mullins creates the tune "Peace," a meditation on the sacraments.

And yet with all this heavenly glory, Mullins returned to what he knew best: the land itself. He addressed the difficulty in following Christ ("Hard"). He dwelled on the haunting power of memories, and how we can keep someone else within them ("I'll Carry On"). He also concluded the album with his now-poignant song "Land of My Sojourn." Here the topic is as old as the apostle Paul: wanting to rise to heaven, yet wanting to keep you fingers in the dirt just a bit longer. Mullins sings, "Nobody tells you when you get born here / How much you'll come to love it / And how you'll never belong here / So I'll call you my country / But I'll be lonely for my home / And I wish that I could take you there with me." Mullins' desire was alleviated; he left this land of sojourn for the bright city on a hill.

These aren't typical worship songs, but paeans of praise. This album provides opportunity for personal reflection while mirroring Rich Mullins' personal thoughts on God and life. I'll never forget one afternoon coming home from a car ride, my mom wanting to turn off the engine, and me begging to keep the tape player rolling. "52:10" had just started, and I knew "The Color Green" came next, and I just had to listen to those two songs before entering the house. She sufficed my wish, and I closed my eyes and experienced my first encounter with music, and one of my earlier encounters with God. I am forever grateful that Rich Mullins recorded A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band.
- Hollie Stewart
February 2005
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