Tuesday, December 9, 2008
More On Decisions
Recent decisions in my life
Have changed my worship
And rehearsal schedule.
Because of recent decisions made,
I now serve as a pastoral musician,
And choir director,
For six different liturgies
In two different languages
Rehearsing five different groups
In three different parishes.
OK. . .well… .one of those groups
Only rehearses every other week.
And not all of those groups sing every week.
And not all of those masses have a choir.
But. . .still. . . .my worship schedule has changed.
it sounds a bit frazzled,
But it isn’t really.
My music planning tends to overlap.
It’s really only a challenge
In the sense that these parishes
All use different hymnals.
For the most part,
The day and time of each of these liturgies
And rehearsals don’t conflict.
Well. . .at least they didn’t
Until late summer
When I was formally asked
To form/direct a children’s choir
For one of these parishes.
A part of me really wanted to do this.
Of all the groups I have led over the years,
There are two kinds of groups
That are just so life giving to me:
These children are bilingual,
Though not all of them are bi-literate.
Their parents primary speak Spanish.
This children’s choir, however,
Would require me spending much time
In inner city Detroit.
I’ve been involved in an inner city ministry before.
It really takes a special commitment
To this ministry.
A part of me resisted. .. .
The distance to drive
(especially in snowy weather),
The pay would be meager,
And just the plain messiness
That comes with inner city work.
Don’t get me wrong.
I firmly believe that an inner city ministry
Brings forth great blessings to those involved.
But the pastoral musician
Called to serve in such a place
Must have the vision
To see beyond the messiness
And peal away the layers
To bring forth the gems that are hiding there.
The week to week involvement with the children
Would require a slight change
In my involvement
With the primary parish I serve in.
That seemed to work itself out
Without too much of a kerfuffle.
It did at first.
But then. . . well. . .
I was asked to prepare the children for Christmas.
I had to think long and hard about that.
I had to pray, reflect and discern.
To accept this
Meant that I would not be present for Christmas
At my primary parish.
In the end,
The decision I made
Was to spend this Christmas
In this Southwest Detroit parish.
This would still require me
To prepare Christmas with my primary parish,
Although other musicians,
No, this was not an easy decision to make.
And certainly not one
that will earn me any income.
I will end up in the red financially by doing this.
But, as I said in a previous blog entry,
Decisions made via a true discernment process
Are not about money.
If it were,
I probably wouldn’t be involved
In any kind of ministry at all.
Inner city ministry is a special calling.
Participants are often transitory.
There’s a different concept of time,
A different concept of structure.
There is a deep reverence
Given to popular piety,
A strong commitment
To popular faith expression.
the gift of popular religiosity
is often looked upon as superstitious
or not needeed
in suburban parishes.
So, this aspect of this particular parish
really is gift.
Liturgy is noisy here.
The liturgy is noisy.
For those of you who like that quite time after receiving the Eucharist
Or after the readings. . .well. . .
You can just forget that.
It’s not gonna happen. . .
. . .at least, not at this particular parish.
(another reason to seek the quiet
that comes in the early morning hours.)
Children acting like children abound.
Sometimes parents don’t realize
That they ought to be in the cry room
Or just watched a little better.
Now, that’s not a complaint nor a criticism.
Young couples with young children
Are going to church in droves
In the inner city, at least, in this parish.
How awesome is that?
I think that is absolutely magnificent.
But that creates…well. . .a messy and noisy liturgy.
If you can’t become a part of the messiness
Of this type of liturgical life
Then inner city ministry is not your calling.
If you can’t see the tremendous possibilities
That lay dormant
Waiting to blossom and become,
Dormant in the children
And in the noise,
Then inner city ministry is not your calling.
If you are the person in the pew
That is complaining because some wayward child
Just ran down the center aisle
And the parent is nowhere to be found,
Then inner city ministry is not for you.
If you are the person who realizes
That mom and dad both work
And one of them is still struggling
To get their immigration papers in order
And that even though their three-year-old daughter
Just ran down the aisle
And they need to be in the moment,
In the sacred space of the moment. . .
.. .well, maybe then you realize
the gift that is inner city.
The little girl isn’t going anywhere.
She’s in church.
What an absolutely fabulous place for her to be.
It’s noisy and messy.
But mom and dad and daughter,
With all of their life’s struggles,
Are in church.
I praise God for that
And I’ll find my personal quiet time with God.
Some other time.
For this liturgy
Is a communal prayer moment.
And in order to be in the communion
One must accept the mess
And the noise that comes with it.
That’s not to say
That we shouldn’t work
At creating sacred silence in the liturgy,
At having parents use the cry room.
It’s only to say
That inner city liturgical life
Is a very unique experience, indeed.
There is also great creativity
In an inner city ministry.
When people don’t have a lot of money
To accomplish their goals
They find some very creative ways
Of reaching those goals.
And this is one thing that I absolutely love:
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I am in no way saying that suburban folk aren’t creative.
It’s just a different sort of creativity.
And as a poet and musician,
I find that I am constantly seeking out
Different forms of being creative.
Having said all of the above
I realize that I am the musician
That can see those gems, those pearls,
That are lying dormant,
That are waiting to grow and become. . .
. .. I have the eyes that see
the gift that comes in the messiness.
I can see the gems in the children.
I can see the great gifts
That this inner city parish
Can give to the larger church.
If I didn’t see it,
Would not have been so hard.
There are some who have treated me
Absolutely terrible because of it.
So be it.
Of all of the things I learned in Cursillo,
I think this is what stays with me most:
“To See, To Judge, To Act.”
The thing is,
If you can see it
You have a responsibility to act upon it.
And I think maybe
Those who aren’t happy with my decision
Probably just can’t see it.
I know that I will eventually
Be called to make some other decisions later.
But that bridge cannot be crossed
Until she presents herself.
And with the clustering process,
It would seem that some paths are being made
For me, and for others,
That aren’t quite totally visible yet.
I cannot decide to continue on any one path
Until all of those paths are set clear before me.
And what of my primary parish?
Who will lead music for Christmas?
Well, first of all,
There are some very competent musicians
Who are a part of the music every week.
It certainly is not a situation
Where no one was left to lead music.
And, to be quite honest,
I was a bit surprised
At how easy it was
To find a guest organist/pianist
For each of the Christmas masses.
And even though one musician
Who had previously committed to lead music
Then recanted their offer to help,
It was by the grace of God
That another musician
Quite literally picked up the phone
And called me to say,
“Here I Am!”
In a previous blog
I wrote about how some decisions
Bring about gifts we never would have expected.
One of the guest musicians I found
Was actually feeling a bit out of sorts.
This was going to be the first year
That this person
didn’t serve as pastoral musician for Christmas
In many years.
This person actually thanked me
For the opportunity to sing God’s praises
For the celebration of Christmas.
But you see,
It takes my not being present
To create this opportunity.
It takes my being absent from music
To give the gift of music to another.
And I must be totally honest.
The clustering situation really is taking it’s toll on me.
A part of me wishes
We would just go ahead and get on with it.
Whatever it is we are to be,
Just create it already.
If some of us will lose our jobs,
Well. . .tell us already.
If our mass schedule will change,
Let’s go ahead and change it already.
If we must get a new pastor
Or worship in a different church building,
Why can’t we just get on with the process
And do it already???
I’ve been at this primary parish
For 3½ years now
And while I knew and understood
That this process was taking place,
It just amazes me
How much the clustering process
Is just dragging along.
I am not the type of pastoral musician
Who comes in just to “fill in the slot,”
Making sure that this mass or that mass
Has someone “doing” music.
I need to belong.
I am not the person who just comes in,
Plays for mass and then leaves.
I have an ardent desire
To belong to the community I serve in.
“To See, To Judge, To Act.”
I would rather act
And I can only act
With the information I have.
Spending Christmas in southwest Detroit is a process.
I am creating some new friendships,
Developing some new relationships
That I am very happy to have.
The inner city will probably never
Pay a salary to a pastoral musician/music director
That a suburban parish can.
But I find that I do belong to this community.
And, whatever else may happen with the clustering process,
I have a great weight lifted from my shoulders
Knowing that this parish
is willing to adopt me,
If only to prepare children for Christmas.
Do you understand?
I hope you enjoyed the song, Mi burrito Sabanero.
This song is one of the many songs
that the children of Detroit
are preparing for Christmas.
And you know,
I can teach them this song.
If I couldn’t, well, the decision to do Christmas
In Detroit wouldn’t have been so hard.
But I can teach them.
And if I don’t teach them,
. . .well. . . that would make me
About as useful
As the person from that gospel story
A few weeks ago
Who buried his talent.
I don’t know about you,
But I can’t own that.
The Cursillo taught me
“to see, to judge, to act,”
and so, I did.
My sincerest apologies
To those who feel slighted by my decision,
For that was never my intention.
And please realize
That there are other circumstances,
Circumstances that I cannot type
On to this electronic parchment.
But rest assured,
these important decisions
are always made by yours truly
in and with a discerning Spirit.
God Bless on us on this special Day
And God bless the children
who love to sing about the Bethlehem Burro!