Friday, August 31, 2012

Reliving the Present

The (not so) secret compartment of the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown (the music office/choir room), and a happy place for me to visit. I had the privilege, again this year, of filling in for Kate Bennett on her vacation Sundays. As some know, traditional church service music is a big part of my background, and in the shaping of who I am. It also has given me the ability to even more deeply connect with seniors (for whom hymns can have profound meaning), as a music therapist. In many churches, the culture has shifted, and music, save the lyrics, has lost much of it's distinction from that which is promoted to be popular in the general culture. Not every one has bought into this (as a necessary move), nor has every church who has honored and maintained it's traditions suffered. PCC has consistently grown in numbers, and in the influence of it's ministry since it's "back porch" inception in the 1970's. When you enter Chesterown from the north side, on route 213, you are met with the obvious physical evidence of it's growth and influence.
To respect and preserve tradition doesn't means that you don't evolve, or grow, or appropriate new things (some may say that, but I doubt many of their ministries are thriving). What, to me, is most vital in all this, is to maintain the thread. Just as we (inevitably) move toward the future, building on the foundations we create in the present; the past has led us to where we are now, and remains imbedded, even if hidden in the composition of the unseen bedrock, in the structures yet to be conceived. Popular culture, beginning in force in the middle of the last century, has lost sight of this, and now multiple generations have lived their lives, with many severed from a sense of connection beyond what is immediately recognizable (or pleasurable).It can easily be argued that this represents the root of many (or all) of society's "evils"; the rejection of convention, the influence of history, and ultimately, higher authority. What can any one person do? In my view, the starting point is simple: plug yourself back in. Stand apart from your (self, and cultural) conditioning, to hear the "voice" of God, see the "hand" of God, feel the "touch" of God, in a continuing thread throughout the timeline of history. This is the "gospel" I seek to "preach", when I sit at the piano (whether to myself if I am alone at home, or to those around me in any performing venue). A wise church ministry recognizes that God is revealed not only from the pulpit, but in all creation, all around. In essence, when I sit at the piano, I allow my personal prayer (connection) to become public, and what is revealed to me in that moment (manifest in created sound) becomes a shared experience. The thread is woven from back to front, and from side to side. We are called to embrace it.  
Welcome home, Kate. I will look forward to your smiling presence (no organist is supposed to be that happy) and artistic contributions as I return to "civilian" life in the pew. Thanks for the opportunity to plug into my own history, and continue the thread. 


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