Our first summer Sunday morning. The relaxed, civilized schedule - only two services, the first at 9:30. The day opened in glorious sunshine, with sunrise just after I woke up ... committing the dicey music plan to prayer, again.
The idea began, as so many do, with a great idea and a lot of energy, and all good intention. It was "Summer Celebration," and our first Sunday after the choir season, so let's do things a little differently. Having secured our fine professional-grade cellist, and counting on the return of our outstanding organist/pianist, the rest was just details. First: find out how many of our string players we can muster. Second: sort out what hymns would be accompanied by piano, and what by organ. Third: would cello alone cover some service music, or would enough string players be around to pull off a Prelude, or the Offering?
Wednesday, our organist calls to check in after his 3-week choir trip to China. Um, family thing ... asking for the Sunday off. To make his first visit to a month-old grandchild. What monster would gainsay that? (And anyway, realistically, was this actually a request for a day off, or an announcement that he would be gone?) OK! Plan B - pianist, full service. Now, how about them strings?
As the adult string players dropped off the list, or failed to return messages, we turned to our high school players. Now this service plan was starting to leave auto-pilot. Some serious thought had to go into making this enterprise successful. Here I am ashamed to admit that it was already past time to seriously pray about this ... but that came even later.
We came into Thursday with a list of players that included 1 adult violinist; 2 collegiate violists, and 1 really fine cellist. I found for the Prelude a simple but effective (and very musical) setting of the hymn tune HOLY MANNA. We had a very fine accompaniment for the congregation to sing "Jesus Is Lord" - strings and piano. We had a setting with strings for BLAENWERN. And I cobbled together what turned out to be a fairly effective WINCHESTER NEW. It all looked good on paper. Then I started to pray!
So, I woke before sunrise on the Lord's Day, trying to trust that this string group was going to pull off this service. We had got music out to everyone by Thursday, but our only rehearsal was Sunday at 8:30. Really, I am getting too old to keep working like this. One of these days my heart will give out, in spite of all my cycling!
And may I say here, without embarrassment, and with humility: God answered prayer. These kids were fabulous. They played in tune. The brought out melodies and accompanied well. They were prompt and cheerful. The 4 high school girls had, like I, run a 5k race the day before. I knew about 5 minutes into the rehearsal that this was going to work. When we ended at 9:15 I had the presence of spirit to thank God for his mercy. And the services bore out the rehearsal.
I do not for a moment think that God answers this kind of praying for my benefit. There are at least two greater purposes, each of them dwarfing my petty concerns and needs. For one, I believe he is merciful to his people, gathered for public worship. Second, especially with young musicians, I believe he has their growth and encouragement in his hands. And most important, I believe God protects and promotes his own glory when his people are assembled. In spite of my poor planning, or the changes of peoples' schedules, or anything else, when musicians give their best (including their best intentions) in the service of the Word, God is glorified among his people in gathered worship.
And so we humbly thank him for the privilege of being able to participate in it. And we take no real credit for it.