Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An ‘S.C.B.’, a ‘Heretic’ and a ‘Nazi Agitator’, all in one weekend!

It’s been quite a few days for me as the title would suggest.

Last week I was contacted by Pat (not the person’s real name, and also conveniently gender neutral), because they were interested in singing in one of the small worship teams I co-ordinate. Interestingly enough they also talked to the Senior Pastor about their desire so he contacted me as well. Curiously it was Pat’s first Sunday at the church where I work so the request was unusual. Most people don’t try and get very involved in a church they are making their first visit at. Well over the next few days it seemed that I heard quite a few tales about Pat. It seemed that Pat wanted to get involved in many of the different ministries Chapelwood offers – which if they all said ‘yes’ would leave Pat very over committed.

So I arranged a Wednesday audition for Pat and waited with some nervousness because in my limited contact Pat had left me feeling uneasy. Pat arrived on time for the audition which was encouraging, but displayed some behavior that made me feel uncomfortable even before we began to sing. The group that Pat was auditioning for is a small one, and so personalities have to gel well together.

It was apparent as soon as I heard a few notes that there were some pitch and tone issues in Pat’s voice that would preclude being amplified in a small ensemble setting. I ran a few more vocal exercises just to be certain and then very lovingly explained why joining this vocal ensemble would not work at this time. I did encourage Pat to keep singing in the large choir at Church where the tone problems would not be so noticeable and where being surrounded by other people singing the same part would help the pitch issues.

I felt pleased about how I handled it…..and then Saturday came along. It seemed that Pat had a conversation with someone who was a friend of mine (although Pat didn’t know it). Pat told this friend of mine about the audition and said that I was rejecting a wealth of musical experience, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that I was a ‘Stone cold Bitch’.

I was actually pleased with how I handled this – as my friend said “Peter, people around here know you, and they don’t know Pat. I know who I would listen too”. Years ago Pat’s statement would have really bothered me – I know that at times I care too much what other people believe about me. Over the last few years I’ve gotten a lot better (hooray for therapy!!!) I almost regard being called a ‘S.C.B.’ as a medal proving that I’ve finally made it in church music ministry J

So on to the ‘Heretic’ statement with relief that I don’t have to write in gender neutral terms any more!

Sunday morning Jerry and I led worship at a Presbyterian church – they wanted to offer a Contemplative Worship experience to their congregation in the hopes of getting something regular underway.

The communion liturgy was one that I had written that we have used at our contemplative service many times. (The bold parts are spoken by the congregation, the rest spoken by one or more Liturgists)

Open your eyes, the Lord is here.
In the bread and the cup we see his beauty.
Open your hearts, the Lord is here.
In the bread and the cup we see his forgiveness.
Open your lives, the Lord is here.
In the bread and the cup we see his grace.

In the upper room Jesus gathered with his disciples for a meal. He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. He gave it to his disciples and said: "Take and eat. This is my body given for you. Remember me as you do this."

The disciples ate, but they did not understand.
They tasted, but they did not see.

When they had finished supper Jesus took the cup. Once again he gave thanks and then offered it to his disciples saying: "All of you drink from this. This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Drink and remember me."

The disciples drank, but they did not understand.
They tasted but they did not see.

Almighty God, help us awake to your presence here.
May these gifts of bread and wine, be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Help us to taste and see, to see and understand,
to understand and awake, to awake and live.

When Jerry and I were handed the bulletin that the church had printed they informed us that they had removed one line. “May these gifts of bread and wine, be for us the body and blood of Christ.” My first thought was that they had removed the line that was the key element in Communion. In the Presbyterian Church communion is purely a symbolic act of remembrance, there is nothing mystical that occurs. No Transubstantiation or Consubstantiation or even the elements as a means of grace. The reason for this is the Presbyterians grew out of the teachings of John Calvin, so in their eyes the line in the liturgy was ‘heresy’. What is interesting here to me is the fact that I grew up in a heavily Calvinist church and so years ago I would have espoused the same beliefs as them! As I’ve traveled and been exposed to other beliefs I feel that my understanding of Communion has become enriched.

When I take Communion now, I have the image of taking into myself the grace and love of God and, as the physical nourishment of the bead and wine is absorbed into my body somehow the grace and presence of God is experienced.

O.k. this is turning into a marathon blog post, so onto part three.

One of my new responsibilities this Fall is teaching the 4th, 5th and 6th Grade boys’ choir (that’s 9 to 11 year olds for you British readers). I feel inadequate doing this to be honest, I’m trying to do a diligent job and I am so appreciative of the volunteers who help. This past Sunday was ‘Buddy Night and Silly Hat Night’, so I lead the rehearsal whilst wearing my Russian Army Officers furry hat that I bought in Prague. Needless to say my head got very sweaty.

Just before the rehearsal I was given a wonderful sheet that had lots of great suggestions on how to teach the song we were working on. At one point in the song the melody moves higher and higher in pitch and the composer had also marked that the singers should slowly get louder (crescendo). To teach this the sheet suggested that you get the children to move their arms like an aircraft taking off. Smoothly getting higher and louder – a nice visual of what we were trying to achieve musically.

I thought this was a great idea and used it in the rehearsal, there was one problem though. All the children were holding their music in one hand so they only had one hand free for the aircraft impersonation. It was unfortunate that the woman who coordinates all of the children’s choirs walked into the room at the precise moment that the entire boy’s choir were on their feet giving me what looked like a Nazi salute while I cavorted in front of them like a mad Russian!

Well that’s my last few experiences at work, and when I haven’t been working it seems I’ve spent it in front of the T.V. watching The Sopranos Season 1. I finished it yesterday evening, so Season 2 here I come.

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