Sunday, October 8, 2017

Five Years

Five years ago today (I am writing on a Thursday, October 5; the rehearsal was a Thursday, Oct. 4.) I led my final rehearsal with the College Church Chancel Choir. Three days later I was in my final services as Pastor for Worship and Music at College Church in Wheaton. I guess it's time for a few reflections . . .

In another space I have been writing about what turns out to be a related issue. Or at least, I should say, an issue that has some bearing on my ministry, my transition, and how I reflect on both. Those posts are more personal than I'll get here; here I'm more historical I guess.

In the five years since I served the church full-time, and conducted that splendid choir, I have had an interim stint with a symphonic chorus, two semesters with a college symphonic band, two-and-a-half years with a small church choir, a full year away from the choral conductor podium. I have been musical director for two campus musicals. I am now in my second month with a college choir.

I have returned to my trombone--though I'm still far from my recital chops. I play in church, sit in with the college band, had a year or so in the college jazz ensemble (trying to learn improvisation), and have even picked up a few bucks in the occasional gig. That has been fun. I even bought a second trombone!

My voice, which was at risk five years ago, has recovered. I have taken the risk of singing in public and more and more to demonstrate in the classroom and rehearsals. I put my hands on the piano with less self-consciousness (though not more skill), use my ukulele in class, and learned the three necessary guitar chords.

So, what about my vocation? What part does leadership in musical worship play in my work and relationships?

I still get calls and emails from former colleagues, with questions and resource requests for regular and seasonal services. I teach music and worship courses at Trinity, and oversee students internships in church music. University chapel personnel are gracious and welcoming of my participation and input. (Even if I am the campus poster boy for hymn-singing, I appreciate that.) Our music department is working our way to a revised church music curriculum, and probably a worship arts major. My experience in the church is considered valuable, and I have the privilege of serving churches by helping prepare young people for music and worship leadership.

I do have an unsettled relationship with the local church. Karen and I are attending a church associated with College Church, but we also take the freedom of Sundays to visit other congregations. We find it difficult to engage deeply; while we don't like to be, we are pretty much "one and done" church-goers. This is partly due to the uncertainty of my teaching gig (we're reluctant to move closer to campus without a long-term contract; and we're reluctant to grow again into a church that we might move away from), and partly due to a deep sense of loss we both carry from our departure from ministry at College Church. We long for a deeper and more sustained connection with a congregation. We hope that will again be a part of our life.

All told, while I am still very much in transition (and aren't we all, always?) the past five years have flown by and have been filled with wonderful surprises, rich blessings, and grace piled upon grace.

I am thankful.