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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Stanford scholar examines commercialization of Christian rock

Based on his study of the booming Christian music industry, a Stanford University professor determined that the commercialization of Christian rock might be undermining its spiritual purpose.

Every Sunday around the country, pastors use Christian-themed rock music to engage their parishioners. Sounding much like standard top-40 pop-music fare, these scripture-based tunes are also becoming more popular on the radio and with consumers.

However, as popular Christian worship music gains a larger audience, Ari Kelman, associate professor of education at Stanford, has uncovered a surprising paradox: The very musicians, songwriters and music producers who create the music are increasingly sensitive to the relationship between rock music and worship.

Kelman, director of a new doctoral program in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education that integrates education and Jewish studies, found that evangelical musicians, like any other musical artists, aim to make the very best music they can. They hope their music will “at best, lead people in prayer, and at least, not mislead them,” he said.

The secularization of religious music

But it is this decidedly secular approach to music production that causes industry professionals who produce spiritual music to question the role that worship songs have assumed in the church.

Through the course of his research, Kelman learned that these specialized musicians feel they are embracing a secular culture that threatens to undermine the “prayerful purpose” of the music.

Kelman, whose current research focuses on the intersection of religion and pop culture, interviewed more than 75 songwriters, worship leaders and music producers and participated in numerous workshops and conferences on worship music.

Songwriters and performers “ultimately hope that the sacred purpose will trump the music’s secular origins,” he said. “The music ends up echoing with both sacred and secular overtones – one never trumps the other.”

But Kelman quotes Martin Smith, lead singer and primary songwriter of the Christian rock band Delirious, as saying, “As the genre of worship music developed into something more popular, it lost focus. We’ve become too song focused and, in truth, we need to become more worship focused.”

Kelman points to Bob Kauflin, a longtime Christian songwriter and teacher, as an example of someone who creates worship music yet is fully aware of the power of worship music to derail spiritual aims.

According to Kauflin, music is a gift from God to deepen and develop the relationship with Him.

However, when the song “becomes an idol … when the performer becomes the mediator … when people can’t worship God unless the music sounds a certain way, when they can’t worship God unless they sing these certain songs,” then the songwriters “have messed it up,” he added.

Kelman underscored the powerful role that musicians and music producers assume in faith practices.

“If people sing their faith, then those who write, perform and produce this music” become central to worship performance and practice, he said.

Worship songs, Kelman noted, seek to model a “heavenly version of prayer” derived from Christian scripture. They attempt to deliver theology while leading the audience through a performance by listening and singing along to a scriptural message.

Exploring the music, prayer connection

Kelman said he first envisioned his project as a reflection on what “the connection was between music and prayer, and the feeling of transcendence or powerful presence that music often evoked” in him.

Kelman, who is Jewish, grew up attending synagogue, where he first encountered music in a religious setting. However, he described the experience as less inspiring than attending rock concerts, where “often great, inspiring and uplifting things” happened.

Kelman developed an interest in worship music through his research on synagogues. He discovered that when he asked Jewish people about their music, they would often reply, “It’s spiritual” or “It’s so meaningful.”

However, personally, the music didn’t impress Kelman as “particularly interesting or innovative.” So he began thinking, “Who in the world is asking questions about music and spirituality in sophisticated ways?” This, Kelman explained, “led me to church.”

Kelman did not set out to debunk any widely held myths about evangelical culture. However, he encountered some, nonetheless.

“Lots of people have said to me, ‘Oh, you must have to listen to such terrible music,’” he said.

But he maintains that “much of the music is really good.”

Kelman’s research on evangelical worship music culture will be presented in his forthcoming book, tentatively titled “Shout to the Lord: Music and Worship in Evangelical America.”

Ashley Walters is a doctoral student in Jewish history at Stanford University. For more information on the humanities at Stanford, visit humanexperience.stanford.edu.

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