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Freedom Song: Faith, Abuse, Music and Spirituality

A Lived Experience of Celebration


June Boyce-Tillman

This book is an autobiographical account of the development of an authentic interiority. It charts the way in which the Christian faith in which the author was enculturated was refined by her lived experience of music, abuse, forgiveness, interfaith dialogue, gender and vocation (into teaching and priesthood). The author describes how music and spirituality can create a route into forgiveness by creatively transforming («mulching») childhood abuse into celebration. Her work challenges established therapeutic models and suggests a variety of alternative tools, including created ritual.

The volume is set out as a series of meditations on the themes contained in the Lord’s Prayer; it can be read in separate sections, as well as in its totality. The author’s life is perceived as a crystal that can be viewed through various lenses, illustrated by different styles of writing. These include narrative accounts written in a personal style; hymns, songs and poems that condense her thinking around a theme; and more academic reflection, using other people’s writing and experiences to understand her own.

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Prelude: Trying to Be Good


I’ve tried to be good,

For I know that I should,

That’s my prayer at the end of the day.

This prayer from Donald O’Keefe, whose ballad At the end of the day was much sung during the Second World War and popularised by Harry Secombe, was my party piece when I was quite young. Somehow it reached my innermost being.1 This is perhaps because deep in the human condition is a desire to make meaning out of their existence. This is the story of my attempt to live authentically:

living from a state of relational self-presence of a particular kind. The kind of self-presence I have in mind is not static but dynamic. It is grounded in a capacity for self-transcendence that empowers the person to function in his or her common human knowing and choosing … relationality, reflectivity, responsibility, and reflexivity, that fidelity to beauty, intelligibility, truth, goodness and love, requires in the concrete.2

He sees this disciplined practice as transformative (O’Sullivan 2012). I have used O’Sullivan’s analytical frame to interrogate my own authentic interiority within the Christian tradition, although it often critiques this. It is an example, of how lived experience may challenge external authority. This long journey reflects my basic curiosity, which has resulted in my exploration of many of the rooms referred to in Jesus’s statement that his Father’s House contains mansions.3 Whereas some people are content to live in a single room in...

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