Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Roman Catholic school in Traverse City, Michigan cuts Hanukkah song from Christmas concert

Syncretism seems to be hitting some obstacles in Traverse City, Michigan. In November 2012, a Congregational church there banned the Muslim call to prayer from a Veterans Day service. In December, there was this incident, as reported by Associated Press, December 19, 2012:

Traverse City — A Hanukkah song was dropped from a Roman Catholic school concert just a day before the show after an official said the season's focus should be on the birth of Jesus.

As a result, two music instructors who had been working with students declined to participate in the concert Tuesday night at Interlochen Arts Academy.

A traditional Jewish song, "Festival of Lights," was on the program for a concert by students from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School in Traverse City.

The kids have been under the instruction of chorale director Jamie Geurkink and band director Cress Smith, under an agreement that puts public school teachers in Catholic schools.

Mike Buell, superintendent of Traverse City-area Catholic schools, scratched the Hanukkah song Monday and said students would have new leaders at the concert.

"I don't have a problem with Jewish music," Buell said.

"But this is a Christmas festival, and that's what we've traditionally done. It's a Christ-focused time of our Advent season."

An official with the Traverse City school district said the Catholic school has a right to pick songs.

"We respect (their) desire to honor the belief of their congregation and to meet the needs of their faith and community," Assistant Superintendent Jayne Mohr said.

Traverse City school board member Marji Rich, who is Jewish, had been pleased with the "Festival of Lights" selection. She said it's important to teach students "important lessons of open-mindedness and embracing other cultures."

It's the second recent dust-up in Traverse City over music and culture. In November, First Congregational Church banned a Muslim call to worship that was part of a Veterans Day concert.

The call to prayer was part of a performance of "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace." A video runs during the singing, showing graphic war scenes followed by people from different faiths drawing together.

The Rev. David Walls said leaders of his congregation feared offending people at the concert.

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