Or so they say:). I am doing the one thing I never liked: not attending church the Sunday after the holiday – so lazy of me. It’s hard to believe it’s only one week since Easter, which in the western church tradition was last Sunday. Today is Easter for the Orthodox and Eastern rite Catholics. Happy Easter to you:)!
What a couple of weeks it has been – and with rare exception, cold and rainy. Yesterday we were supposed to get snow. In April. In Merlin. That never happens. Thankfully it didn’t.
What follows are my thoughts about my church community. Knitting and other content will follow in my next post. So if this stuff bores you to tears (I understand:)), you might wish to skip this post.
Backing up a bit, I thought I’d share some highlights of the weeks.
First, the full moon after which we celebrate Easter. This shot is appropriately near an ancient tree in the graveyard next to St. J’s:
I posted on FB how lucky we are to have two Peabody graduates in our music program: Nancy S., our organist/choirmaster and Music Director; and Diane L., a retired public school music teacher and the director of our excellent children’s choir. Our Rector, Ann R., is also a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music! We are an incredibly lucky parish. This year, I did not sing with the choir because work kept me very busy. Instead, I focused on playing in the bell choir and doing the odd instrumental piece – flute or tympani. For me, it’s important to be reliable. I am determined to finish out this year with choir and bell choir. We shall see:).
Sadly, we learned earlier this year that Nancy will be retiring next February and returning as Music Director Emeritus, hopefully continuing to work with the bell choir. Needless to say, we are all incredibly sad about this and are concerned that we would never be able to replace her with someone of similar ability – to say nothing of the connections she has established over the years with the artistic community in the Merlin-DC-VA area! I hope the powers-that-be accomplish this transition in a mindful way. Otherwise, all that she has built over the years will be destroyed and that would be awful.
The thing about Nancy that, IMHO, makes her stand out from many others of her ilk, is that she does not focus the spotlight on herself. She has enhanced the work of others, she has put others in the spotlight, while with her own talents she has worked in the background, as a true professional does, to create an environment of creativity, hard work, safety, and joy in a job well done. Diane has done much the same with the Children’s Choir. She is wonderful with the children. Her years as a music teacher show in her relationship with her choir and their parents. She, too, provides an environment of learning, spirituality, camaraderie, and safety. The children are very dedicated and very good singers, thanks to her leadership.
Knowing there are changes ahead, I am facing the future of music at St. J’s with some trepidation. There are many who are angry about this change; they believe that Nancy has been forced out a year too early and for no really good or discernibly good, reason. I feel this way, too. Not that I don’t think there is a time to retire and enjoy the fruits of one’s lifelong labors, just that it should be done in a mindful way, with input from the person involved. That being said, I refuse to fall into the “hate” trap. Let me explain what I mean by that.
About a year or two ago, I read something penned by a former priest at my church, someone I have gotten to know more (in some ways) that I did when she was at our church. She wrote about how hateful people can be to leadership in their churches. Hateful to the point of being utterly destructive to the mental and physical health of the incumbent. When I was Catholic, it was almost the other way around: the priest could do no wrong. Sadly, we learned that is not always the case. In my own church, it seems the priest can do no right.
In the time I’ve been at my present church, I have never regretted joining it; in fact, it still remains one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. There have been difficulties, however. It is naive to think that factions and power struggles don’t occur in churches. Churches are made up of human beings, sinners if you will, imperfect beings who sometimes do not behave as well as they should. The deal is, we’re supposed to recognize this and strike a balance between being “lovingly confrontational” and cutting each other some slack. (See e.g. 1 Cor. 13). Don’t get me wrong: there are some sick, and bad, people in the world and one needs to do what one should about that. But all other things being equal, we don’t always get our way in things and not getting one’s way should not be an excuse to be cruel or nasty to someone who already has a very tough job. At the same time, one is called to speak truth to power.
So, I figure right now my job is to be honest about how I see things without being hateful. As the BCP* says, “I will, with God’s help.”
On Easter Sunday, every year since I’ve been at St. J’s (almost 16 years), Nancy has played the Vidor Toccata from his Symphony No. V. It occurred to me that this Easter was going to be the last time we would hear her play it on the magnificent organ in this church with amazing acoustics and, before running from the bell table to the tymps to play with her on this piece (she plays the Toccata; a brass quintet plays some of the melodic lines; and the tympani provide some emphasis at the end of the piece), I turned on the voice recording feature on my cellphone. This was a memory I did not want to forget.
I’m sure I’m not the only one surprised at the depth of emotion I felt when the piece was over, the congregation was greeting it with thunderous applause, and Nancy was leaving her seat to thank us all and give out hugs. Her family was upstairs, her husband Rennie, son Joe (his wife Sandy had to remain home in OH this time around). Note: she knows I taped it and has not objected.
True to form, she sent out an email thanking everyone involved, overlooking our many flubs and errors, and taking a back seat to the volunteers.
Later that day, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with family. Truly a lovely holiday. Χριστός ἀνέστη Christos anesti.
*BCP=Book of Common Prayer