Two weeks ago, my wife and I took our two kids to watch the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)–Baguio's musicale, "Joseph the Dreamer" at the Saint Louis University (SLU) Center for Culture and the Arts (CCA).
It was a delightful treat with all its 17 songs rendered in an enthralling mix of pop, rap and praise — the serious and the comic, the classical and the contemporary, the liturgical and the spontaneous. Its creative appropriation of a foreign theme for a Pinoy audience connects with today's generation for whom a Charles Heston–era retelling of ancient Hebrew stories has become soporific.
All performers virtually form a cross section of the Baguio community — teens and elderlies, students and professionals, academics and business folk, private individuals and government officials. This demonstrates how Christian ministry can effectively meld with social involvement or public service.
What is most impressive to me about this musicale is the willingness of two distinct Christian institutions — a CICM–run school and an Evangelical church — to work together in packaging a gift to our 100–year old city and its multiethnic denizens.
May we continue to see more interdenominational work among Christians in the city.
The Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) began its work in the Philippines in 1908. It recently produced a docu, "The CICM Legacy in the Philippines," a mini–version of which can be viewed @ cicmphil100. Among the CICM priests who have helped enrich Igorot ethnography and Cordillera Studies in general were Fr. Francis Lambrecht and Fr. Francisco Billiet whose works, Kalinga Ullalim and Ifugao Orthography, "immensely contributed to the growing repertoire of Cordillera folk songs" (Saboy 1997, 7).
Meanwhile, the UCCP was established in 1948 as an "organic union" mainly of the following denominations: Presbyterian Church, the Philippine Methodist Church, the Evangelical United Brethren, the Congregational Church, and the Christian Church/Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ). For a backgrounder on this nationalistic church, see "The United Church of Christ in the Philippines: Historical Locations, Theological Roots, and Spiritual Commitment" and "Unity in Diversity: The Birth of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines" respectively written by Mariano C. Apilado and Isagani V. Deslate (see Kwantes 2001, 335– 358; 2002, 28–56). Among their more prominent members today are the likeable Juan Flavier, the venerable Jovito Salonga, and the indefatigable Fidel Ramos.
THE JOSEPH STORY RETOLD
Joseph is such an intriguing Biblical character that one Hexateuch (Genesis–Joshua) expert has this patriarch pictured as an icon of forgiveness in contrast with the image of a God who needed gradual "moral education" by his own creatures (Segal 2007). The very idea surely raises eyebrows especially among the more conservative wings of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, but this scholar's work as a whole is an interesting read for those who wish to have a peek into how different interpretive communities struggle with sacred texts.
Andrew Bard Schmookler probes into Segal's speculation @ nonesoblind.org, and Rabbi Mier Kahane engages Segal in a debate the first part of which is shown below:
The Joseph story is about love and jealousy, and crime and guilt, about loss and pain, and transformation and forgiveness. In contrast to the Cain and Abel account, what is dramatically different in the Joseph story is that Joseph is both the long–suffering victim and the powerful figure who, remembering his own victimization, must decide whether to punish or forgive.
Joseph never seriously considers retribution. Rather, acting almost as a drama therapist, he leads them into a symbolically related journey that changes them. Theirs is not a total transformation, but as Judah's actions demonstrate, it is one of significance. And in this depiction of the sinner and his capability of change, there is important validation of the place of forgiveness within the moral order, even when justice would have indicated punishment. (Segal 2007, 23)
Kwantes, Anne C., ed. Chapters in Philippine Church History. Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2001.
__________________ . Supplement to Chapters in Philippine Church History. Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2002.
Saboy, Anatalia M. Indigenous Ethnic Songs of the Cordilleras. Manila: NCCA, 1997.
Segal, Jerome M. Joseph's Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.