Monday, August 3, 2015

. . . and the Ladies

My previous post is woefully incomplete on many counts. But especially as it gives the impression that only men were important partners in my music ministry. Wrong.

Karen figures into everything I write—often explicitly, but nearly always implicitly. I survived three decades in this work because of her. She kept me going when I was discouraged, she saw things in my that I could not see in myself, and she brought her outstanding gift of hospitality to the church and our home.

Karen did not want me to go into ministry. She came into this life thirty years ago, kicking and screaming. (Not literally, but that is only because she is so classy.) She was raised in a Baptist church, her father was an elder, and she saw some terrible things happen to pastors and leaders. She did not want to see that again, and didn’t want it to be part of our family life. Not to mention that change is hard, and with this change—10 years into our marriage—I would be embarking on an exciting new venture, but she would be leaving behind all her friends, her church, and the home we loved. More to come.

There were a number of women at Berean Baptist Church, Burnsville, MN, who were the strength of the music ministry before I came, and continued faithfully after I left. The Graded Choir program was run by a creative and competent trio of directors: Kay Mundt, Sherry Kix, and Kathy Severson. They kindly called me out when necessary, and gave me one of the best lessons of my life: I quickly learned that giving a crew like this the freedom and responsibility, their program was going to be much stronger than if I kept my hand in it. What a joy to see them love children, prepare good music, and put on great children’s musicals.

Elsewhere I have written about my friend Steve (“the first friend I almost killed on a bicycle”). Steve and Jackie Thompson were deeply involved in the church’s music program before I came, and stayed involved until they got involved in a church plant. Jackie was—and I’m sure still is!—a fantastic pianist. She had style, panache, skill, and a joy that made working with her a blast. We worked together a lot on Sunday evenings, and for a time had a bit of a combo going, which I like to call “the JT 5.” Good times, with a classy lady who loved to take risks.

Being the kind of Baptist church it was, Berean had an organ/piano duo that played in all the morning services. Adele (piano) and Carol (organ) were faithful, devoted, joyful, and fun. They welcomed me into their well-established routine, then let me change it on them. They refused to be paid, not because that would place some kind of restraint on them, but because they were charter members of the church, loved what they did, and lived to serve. Oh, I put them through a lot. We laughed a lot.

College Church also had a strong children’s choir program, with a young mixed choir, a girls’ choir and a boys’ choir. While the boys’ directors changed occasionally (one director called this choir the Dead End Kids, but he meant it lovingly, and he did a good job with them), Jennifer and Debbie had been in their roles for a while, and are still. That long-term faithfulness sustains one of the best church children’s choir programs around. Jennifer’s gift of administration is second only to her mastery of the developing child’s voice. Debbie has the knack of drawing out beautiful music from girls grades 3–6, with discipline heavily dosed with love. The program under their long watchful care excels in teaching children the role and place of music in public worship. Brava!

Diane Jordan, Children’s Ministry Director at College Church, is a musician, a horn player, and fiercely committed to the place of music in children’s programs. Pre-schoolers sing hymns (as well as other children’s songs). Diane was very visible as a founding and sustaining member of the church’s excellent brass ensemble. Diane was not only on the same page as me musically; she often led the charge in staff meetings, private conversations, and in public.

Elaine Meyer was my administrative assistant through my last few years at College Church. An excellent organist, and good with people, she made my work that much easier as other aspects of my ministry got more complicated. Elaine was preceded by Claudia Gerwin, whose diligence and passion inspired and informed me.

Obviously, in both churches, women were the backbone of much of the music-making. I would be remiss not to mention choir members, worship team musicians, accompanists and service players. But if I start listing names, I won’t be able to stop. So I’ll just say, I’m thankful not to have done music ministry in a monastery!  

Thirty years ago I handled this change of life badly. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I did not handle well Karen’s reservations; did not really comprehend the nature and extent of  disruption this was going to mean. But in time Karen not only saw that it was right for me; she saw that it was right for us. (Oh, and I should mention that our Baptist church was nothing like what she experienced growing up!) And when—more often than I will admit—I was prepared to toss in the towel, it was Karen who saw the big picture, and my place in it.

And she continues to be that partner in our current stage of life as well.