Friday, July 10, 2015

Back stories

I had a conversion experience as a high school student. The respect I had for the church and the Bible, and the belief that prayer was an actual encounter with God, became living realities when I understood that the one thing that kept me from actually knowing God was my sin . . . and that God himself had removed that barrier, through the gracious work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This happened in a context other than my home church, and over time I began to attend this other church, where among other things I was singing in the youth choir. One Sunday morning, this rather informal church sang “Holy, Holy, Holy”—a hymn I have loved since my childhood. And as we sang it hit me: This is what I have missed in the services here.

It is that combination of a vibrant, personal expression of faith and devotion, along with the humble reach toward the transcendent, that I have tried to foster in my work as a pastoral musician. That is what Karen and I experienced in the Village Church. It is where I think we got to at Berean Baptist. It is the balance College Church has always worked so carefully to maintain.

I never considered a vocation in church music. As a Christian believer, I assumed I would be involved in a church. As a musician, I assumed I would help make music in a church. I assumed my day job would develop into my career. When I got part-time work on a church music staff, it was just a (delightful) second job.

It looked like my six-year music education had equipped me for a healthy avocation in music. As I approached my 30th birthday, I left the church staff position to complete a MEd degree to gain credentials toward a career in higher ed administration. Then I got  a call from my friend John.

John Wilson was chief editor at Hope Publishing Company. He asked if he could submit my name for a church position in a suburb of Minneapolis. Why not? These things seemed not to work out, and I was content with my re-oriented “plans.” Almost on a lark, I entered the process that landed me in Burnsville. I celebrated my 30th birthday in the fall that year. It was a Sunday. I led worship and directed the Berean choir. It was a gift to wake up to my new calling.

Thirty years ago this week, I became a pastoral musician. I’m still trying to sort out all that means, and I’m still eager to fulfill that vocation, in whatever form it takes.

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