Musing

More than six years have passed since I wrote about a young man in our church (see ‘Supporting a Young Singer/Songwriter’s Dream‘) … about his talent and his dream. Johnathan Booy didn’t win the CBC competition that year, but he has made great strides towards achieving his dream.

In 2015 he graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Music, and then went on the next year to complete a Master’s Degree in Scoring for Film, Television and Video Games at Berklee College of Music, Valencia Campus in Spain.

On his website his Bio says,

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best musicians around the world, recording at amazing studios such as AIR Lyndhurst in London, Budapest Scoring Stage, and The Warehouse in Vancouver.”

He’s already made good progress on his journey and I have no doubt he will reach his goals. In the world of artistic endeavours he has what it takes — talent, desire, persistence, and a humble, faith-filled heart. His music always moves me. (He’s a source of inspiration to me, too, as I putz my way towards goals of my own, in writing and publication.)

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It’s also a particular joy that he has returned to BC just at the right time to once again fill a vacancy in our church. As of February 1st he has become our pianist, choral director and Director of Music. Haney Presbyterian Church is blessed!

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When music makes me feel old…

Every so often something grinds me to a stop and makes me consider my age. Music isn’t usually one of those things. Oh, there’s always the knowing look when a particular genre turns up on the truck’s radio and I change stations because I find it jarring. Someone is bound to think, “Old fogies are in control of the radio dial again,” but I assure you I would have switched it just as quickly fifty years ago.

No, what has me thinking about my age today is the number of years music has been impacting my life.

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Even if I discount how readily family gatherings during my childhood ended up around a piano, or with a violin or melodeon, to sing favourite songs, and if I focus only on the years of my own active participation, I’m stunned. Why? Because they really add up, and I’ve never considered myself to be particularly musical.

There were the occasions while the grownups visited, when I closed myself into my grandparents’ dining room and struggled to plunk out one-fingered melodies by ear on their piano. There was also one summer during which my hubby served a prairie mission field, when a parishioner undertook to teach me some elementary piano basics on the out-of-tune church piano. And the year the organist in another congregation patiently took me through the first three Royal Conservatory grades. Ha! I was so self-conscious that no matter how much I practised a piece to perfection in solitude, I could only stumble through it during the next lesson.

So how I ended up years later leading a children’s choir can only be attributed to the sad fact that in our small congregation there was no one else capable or willing to volunteer. I wasn’t capable either, but apparently I was willing to try, and I persevered for several years.

Then, in 1994, seven months after arriving in our present congregation, I faced another plea to help — this time it was to direct the senior choir — and despite retiring four different times, I somehow ended up directing for the better part of the next nineteen years.

From my first exposure to church as a teenager when I was conscripted to join the choir, up to last year when my lack of voice and breath control convinced me it was time to stop, I’ve also sung in church choirs.

My ‘active participation’ in music leadership covers almost six decades! I must be really, really old! What’s more amazing to me, however, is that I still have only a rudimentary ability to read music. I’ve blustered my way through it all without being qualified, although I’ve certainly been opinionated.

For instance, as a choir director I have strong feelings about the purpose of a church choir. Perhaps that’s why I reacted to an article our associate pastor pointed out on Facebook recently. It offered “four functions to explain why the church choir exists” and emphasized that there was a specific order to the priorities:

“As the director of a church choir I use four functions to explain why the church choir exists. Those priorities help determine the programmatic choices that our music ministry makes. The functions are in a specific priority order, but I also believe each function is equally important as they must be present to have a vital music ministry. The four functions are to lead and enliven the congregation’s song, to sing music that the congregation cannot, to serve as a small-group within the church for faith formation, and to sing beautiful and challenging music to glorify God and to edify the congregation.”

My top priority is found nestled in the wording of her last one: to worship and glorify God and to help the congregation do the same.

You don’t want to know how many times I’ve lectured my choirs about this. If asked, they could probably repeat my words from memory: “What we do is never a performance. We’re here to assist the congregation in the worship experience.” I’ve always believed a choir’s sole purpose is to support the ministry, providing musical leadership for the corporate expressions of prayer, petition and praise.

While the author and I may differ on the order of priority, we do agree on other aspects. “A church choir’s job is not just to sing beautifully,” the article continues, “but rather it is to minister to the congregation and to each other in a variety of ways.”

I can’t provide statistics, but I’m pretty sure the majority of church choirs are comprised not of professional-quality singers but of volunteer members, many of whom love to sing but don’t know how to read music. I encouraged anyone who wanted to be involved whether or not they had technical skills. I gave out guidance on a need-to-know basis, keeping it simple for the sake of those who really didn’t care about it (or who might already know it).

4b531eb4f09c12f364035ee7ae323793A quarter rest? Ah, that would be the one that looks like a sideways seagull, dipping its wings for a one-beat rest. That’s it. Period. Some remembered the rest’s name; others remembered the seagull illustration. Either way, they understood the symbol meant not to sing for one beat.

Yes, it’s important to give our best when it comes to worshipping God with our voices, but I believe God honours the heart’s intention, not the voice’s perfection. I didn’t have the expertise to teach all the musical complexities and nuances, or to require them of my choristers. In most cases the music was learned by rote memorization and repetition to the best of our amateur ability, and then sung with joy.

That’s what I remember most about all those years participating in church music teams: that each one of us took joy in the shared musical experience of being part of a unique ministry.

Yes, that and how very many years it’s been! Goodness, I’m old! 🙂

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Advent I – Waiting in Hope

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In church Sunday morning the children were asked what they saw that was different in the sanctuary. One youngster immediately pointed to a banner on the chancel wall: “Hope”. Another acknowledged the Advent wreath with its candles. Hope was our focus on the first Sunday of Advent. As the first of the candles was lit, we read the liturgy…

We wait.
We wait in hope.
We wait for God to be revealed.
We wait for God to tear open the heavens and come down.

 

“We wait in hope for God to be revealed … for God to come down.”

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Yes, it’s happened again!

I write fiction. So how is it that I only seem to publish non-fiction? Last year it was the history of Haney Presbyterian Church in Maple Ridge, BC. This year it’s a compilation of the sermons of one of Haney’s previous ministers, the Reverend Kris Davidson.

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AMEN & AMEN is a very personal project … something I’ve wanted to do ever since Kris’ untimely death in January 2005.

davidsonsOn the way home from a Christmas vacation with family in Alberta, a terrible accident took his life and that of his wife, Sheryl and their older daughter, Lauren. Despite her own serious health problems, twenty-two-month-old Katie survived.

“Upheld by the prayers of the Haney congregation and surrounded by the love and care of her grandparents, aunts and uncles, Katie recovered. That she will have no memory of the accident is undoubtedly a blessing. What is a tragedy, however, is that she will also have no memory of her parents and sister, or of her father’s significant ministry.”

When Kris’ parents donated his computer to the church and I discovered all his sermon files on it, the idea of somehow preserving his words for Katie took root. Eleven years later, after typing ‘amen and amen’ yet again — the words with which Kris frequently ended his sermons — I decided they would make the ideal title.

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The cover background photo is one I took during a special weekend at the Wilderness Lodge on the Sunshine Coast.

AMEN & AMEN contains thirty-nine of the forty sermons Kris preached in the nine months between his ordination and his death. (The last, from Christmas Sunday, remained in note form awaiting his attention after the vacation from which he never returned.) My desire is that its words will one day be a blessing to his daughter. I don’t plan to promote it, but in the next couple weeks it will become available to anyone else who might wish to order a copy. At that time I’ll update this post to include the link. (Links now added below.)

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The word of our God will stand forever.

(Isaiah 40:8b)

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AMEN & AMEN is available from:

Amazon. ca

Amazon.com

CreateSpace

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Birds of a feather…

Chickadees! Zillions of them flit back and forth, snatching seeds and passing each other on their fly past between the feeder and nearby woods. Well, maybe not zillions, but certainly millions. Oh, okay, at least a couple dozen at a time. 😉

Chickadees

It’s hard to catch good shots of chickadees because they don’t sit still for long. This one was taken on a snowy morning at our daughter’s home. I sat at the family room window with camera poised and took several shots, few of which were in focus. Not until I uploaded them to my computer did I discover that (not counting the Common Redpoll’s little butt), I’d caught two different species of them in one shot — the Black-capped (right) and the Mountain (left) Chickadee.

The Black-capped are common where I live on BC’s south coast, as are Chestnut-backed Chickadees that often travel with them, but the Mountain Chickadees are new to me. Maybe I should say I haven’t noticed any on previous visits. A white eyebrow distinguishes them from the other species, but as they dart back and forth, that minor difference isn’t easy to spot.

One thing I find interesting about the birds who visit our feeders is the variety that often arrive together, especially in the winter. Here at home the Chickadees usual travel with Juncoes, and the occasional Varied Thrush or perhaps two or three Steller’s Jays join them. At my daughter’s, the chickadees arrive with Common Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks. First a bird or two arrives then the rest swoop in for an early morning feed, and leave for destinations unknown until it’s time to return for the next meal. They always make one last visit at dusk, stocking up extra calories for the night.

I don’t know the origin of the “birds of a feather flock together” phrase, but in the avian world it’s certainly true. Doesn’t matter their colour or size, they have feathers in common and many are happy to hang out together to share the benefits, (assuming we’re not talking about predatory kinds such as hawks).

People are a lot like that, too. We like to hang out with those who think like us, or have a love of similar activities. Even writers, who spend much of the time in solitary creating mode, like to interact occasionally with other writers. We know they understand our quirks and won’t question our eccentricities. They’re generous about sharing experiences and helpful information. And best of all, they commiserate without judgement over our query rejections and writing failures.

It should be like that for Christians, too. According to comments and articles I find on Facebook, however, not everyone has a positive experience in church. I read of discrimination, criticism and exclusion, and that boggles my mind! I haven’t observed that in the churches I’ve attended, but obviously it happens.

When it comes to sharing God’s love, we could learn a lesson from the birds! “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” [D. T. Niles]

“Evangelism is not salesmanship It is not urging people, pressing them, coercing them, overwhelming them, or subduing them. Evangelism is telling a message. Evangelism is reporting good news.”  [Richard C. Halverson]

Next time I see joyous wee Chickadees flocking to the feeder, I know I’m going to remember this.

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As Sandra Heska King’s “Still Saturday” winds down and merges with Lisha Epperson’s “Give Me Grace”, I link up for today’s transitional posts…

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and

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How many candles does it take?

He stood on tiptoes, peering at the Advent wreath, counting aloud. Then, “Okay, but if there are four Sundays on the way to Christmas, why are there five candles?”

Advent Candles

His sister had been trying to answer his questions, but with growing impatience she shrugged. “That’s the Jesus candle. Now c’mon … let’s go.” She reached for his shoulder to steer him away, but he ducked from her grasp.

“But Mom told me that one was the Jesus candle,” he said, pointing to the Christ candle which this day sat unused on the communion table pushed to one side of the chancel.

“Yeah, well, that’s the one we use every Sunday to remind people that Jesus is the light of the world. This one, um … this one is his birthday candle.”

“But birthday candles belong on cakes!”

“There’s cake downstairs, remember? If you want a piece we’d better hurry or there won’t be any left.”

“But why is the cake downstairs when the candle is up here?”

“Because Jesus wouldn’t like people to get cake crumbs on the church carpet. For pete’s sake, don’t you know anything?”

As she pushed him ahead of her down the aisle toward the doorway, I smiled at the memory of another little boy in a former church, and the endless questions that had kept a young minister fumbling for answers during a children’s story. There’s nothing more delightful and at the same time more frustrating than a child’s insatiable curiosity.

There’s also nothing more important than satisfying that curiosity, of offering truthful explanations geared to an appropriate level of understanding. In this situation I thought his sister did a remarkably good job. Don’t you? 🙂

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