Sign-up for free e-newsletter

Viewpoint from Lieutenant Ben Selfe 11/03/2016 

ben selfe 2014Lieutenant Ben Selfe
Salvation Army, Great Yarmouth
as published in the Yarmouth Mercury

I recently found an accordion whilst clearing through junk at The Salvation Army. Unfortunately we don’t have a designated accordion cupboard so having failed to find a new home for it I was left with just one option: take it home and learn to play it!  Being from the West Country and having a great love for The Wurzels I thought this would be a great opportunity to reconnect with my roots. I was wrong. Learning the accordion is quite difficult and for some reason my neighbours have been ignoring me

dove leftLast year I learnt to play the trombone and the bass guitar within a week, so imagine my frustration and bafflement at struggling so much with the spiritual instrument of my homeland. As a child I played the cornet, so learning the trombone was simply reapplying the basic techniques from valves to slides. Similarly, having learnt classical guitar as a child the bass guitar is just a simpler and sexier version so the transition was relatively painless. The accordion is a completely new beast, apart from playing chopsticks on the piano. So playing the keys is completely new to me, the bass notes seem to be in a totally illogical order and flapping my arms about constantly to make the sound feels uncomfortably unnatural

Dove rightI guess it's true what they say: you can't teach an old dog to play the accordion. For those who learnt to live lives of faith as children spiritual growth often comes naturally. But if we have not had a church or spiritual upbringing how can we learn to be people of faith? Just like playing the accordion faith may be completely new, totally illogical or uncomfortably unnatural. From my experiences of learning music here are some top tips: 

  • find a tutor - whether this is a church pastor/vicar or a peer mentor who is spiritually mature;


  • join a group - learning side-by-side with others provides encouragement and accountability for mutual support and development;


  • begin with the basics - you can't play a symphony before you can play scales. Learn the basic rhythms of life with God, start with simple 'spiritual disciplines' and grow at your own pace;


  • make mistakes - the day Rachmaninov decided to become a great pianist wasn't the day Rachmaninov became a great pianist. Jesus' first disciples made MANY mistakes and we will too, it's a healthy sign that we're learning