From the Associate for Liturgy and Music: Crossing the Border

Published by Martin Pommerenke on Wed, 9 Oct 2019 11:55

Sometimes we need to build the bridge as we walk on it - because things have changed and we need to figure out how to do something in an unknown future that we’ve found ourselves in. 

It reminds me of a story from the book of Numbers, the fourth book in the Old Testament, in chapter 13. Before this, you might know the story of how God delivered the Hebrew people through a whole series of mighty acts from being enslaved by the Egyptians, promising that they would be brought to a land of milk and honey. So when they get to the outskirts of this “promised land,” God tells them to send out spies to check things out and report back. Almost all of the spies come back and say - No way will we ever be able to get there - it’s way too tough! Just one of them says - Yes, we can do it - let’s do it right this moment and not wait one more minute!

Unfortunately, the Hebrews listen to the majority report. They don’t make a courageous choice, and they end up staying stuck in the desert for a really long time.

The musicians of St. Columba’s have crossed the border into a place that looks very different form how things used to be, and the same ways of doing things might not work. 

The St. Columba’s Singers have been working to try to grow a traditional Episcopal church choir for a long time - really for all of the ten years that I’ve been here.  St. Columba’s has changed a lot in those ten years. Not many in our congregation remember how things looked ten years ago: much smaller, older, fewer families, less traffic, a different kind of leadership philosophy, and maybe less-hectic schedules.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the size of our choir, although there have been ups and downs. Perhaps it has because we haven’t done a good job of saying, “We really need you!” as one person suggested. But I know also that a number of people have been helpful in stepping forward to sub in on days when attendance has been low. And I also know that a number of instrumentalists and singers have stepped forward to offer solos during the summer - and into this fall. 

So I am inviting all of the musicians of the congregation - all of the St. Columba’s Singers, our instrumentalists, and any regular attender to St. Columba’s who has sung or played a solo or in a small group to gather for a Musicians’ Roundtable on Sunday, November 24 following the 10 a.m. service. 

We’ll be asking one question of the musicians there: how can we structure our music organization at St. Columba’s to allow you to participate in ways that are the most life-giving and God-honoring for you? 

I’ve learned the hard way sometimes not to guess answers to these types of questions or make a lot of plans based on those guesses. But I’m curious about what our musicians have to say, and what kind of new vision might come from it. We’ve crossed the border, and it’s time to wonder together in a new land and maybe do something courageous. 

St. Columba’s is an unusual place - unusual in a good way. It might - might - be that our music has to be as warmly atypical as we are. 

Let’s find out.


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