More on Music

Celebrations and Challenges

posted by Penny Skildum

December 10th and 17th were both exhausting and exhilarating! Attendance at the Advent Dinner, on December 10th exceeded our wildest expectations. 125 guests enjoyed a good meal and musical performance. Serious challenges in the food delivery and meal clean-up aside (challenges that WILL be addressed effectively if we decide to do something like this again next year), the beautifully decorated sanctuary and wonderful community spirit-of-the-season linger still in my mind’s eye and warm my heart.

Worship with communion the following Sunday morning around the same tables in the sanctuary, with Joseph Martin’s lovely music about the importance of the light of Christ coming in this season of darkness, was uplifting to many (our largest worship attendance since Easter last spring) – one person commenting that we should make it our regular practice to do worship around tables.

The next couple of weeks were consumed with family holiday events, with very little time for reflection. But the necessity of writing a regular monthly article for this newsletter has provided a pondering opportunity. When I come down from the high points of experiences like these just mentioned, the shock is similar, I imagine, to that of the brave (or foolish) folks who participate in polar plunges. That is to say that my perception of the contrast between the energy and participation levels of these high points and the regular, weekly Sunday gatherings of our faith community is striking and, to me, unsettling.

It is completely beyond the scope of an article of this length to summarize the complex web of cultural forces that have battered the Christian Church (and many other institutions) during the course of my lifetime. And it is definitely not my intent to lay blame in any particular place or with any of the individuals, families and communities that find themselves living in an era where much has unraveled and there is little consensus on how to build into the future. But, with the multitude of spiritual challenges facing us these days (again, whole books have been used to put large topics like climate change, genetic manipulation, militarism and nuclear power into terms that are spiritually relevant for individuals and local communities), it seems to me like we, as a faith community, should have more to offer to our members than occasional spiritual high points.

If we are a community that believes that spiritual health and wholeness is as essential as nourishing food, clean air and water, things that are essential to us on a daily, routine basis, however much we might enjoy an occasional special meal or the freshness of a mountain campsite, then it seems to me that we must find new ways to make the daily – the weekly – the routine spiritual care and feeding of our community every bit as relevant, as accessible and as compelling as the sporadic high points, like those mentioned above, that we rightly enjoy so much. Perhaps the person who spoke to me about routinely having worship around tables was onto something. Could this be a format for engaging people more regularly in vital smaller group experiences? Could we use technology to make our community experiences available at different times for people whose engagement with communities beyond our faith community makes it impossible for them to regularly attend? Do we need to find ways to offer experiences at different times or in different spaces? Do we still need the same skills in those who lead this process (preaching, training of volunteer musicians) or are other talents called for (training and nurture of small group leaders, music performance).

I am of an age in this culture where one thinks about retiring. It’s relatively easy to be interested in retiring when the work seems relatively unimportant and is not going much of any place. In fact, people often resign from such work to try to find something more meaningful (I did that once). But I would rather be engaged in something of great importance that is practically bursting with new ideas and possibilities and the energy to persevere even through failures. I might never retire from that. Perhaps you are another person who would like to take on a challenge – to find practical new strategies and methods that will provide fresh energy for new approaches to regular spiritual nourishment for our community and maybe even push us to offer these to others. Perhaps you’ll do me the honor of sharing your ideas, your passion, with me. Maybe we’ll find ourselves working together on a committee or work team. That, I would look forward to.

Seasonal Awareness

posted Dec 17, 2017, 5:19 AM by Melissa Navratil

I really don’t like marketing very much. My reasons really aren’t important for this article. I only mention it for context. I would like to get your attention just briefly to remind you of two special musical events coming up in December – and that feels like marketing to me.

One musical event, the Advent Dinner, will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Advent/Christmas season with your faith community friends which begins at 6 pm on the evening of Sunday, December 10th with appetizers and a social time (with live music of the season by the Ringers of Peace). The social time will be followed by a nice dinner (meat, vegetarian and gluten-free options available) with the Praise Singers presenting a marvelous collection of Holiday music called Christmas Fantasia by Greg Nelson and David Hamilton immediately following. Twenty years ago, when this music was published, it was nominated for a Dove award. The orchestration is so well done that the Praise Singers have chosen to sing along with the orchestral recording. They would really like to sing this music for you! I hope you will attend. And this is a great kind of event to invite friends and relatives to join you for the experience.

The other musical event will be during our worship time on Sunday morning, December 17th, the Celebration Chorale (with a few folks joining just to sing this music) and a small instrumental ensemble will present The Longest Night, by Joseph Martin, a set of seven pieces (approximately 30 minutes of music) conceived as a service for those dealing with grief and loss during this culturally festive time of year. I will modify the narration to give the service a broader context. For the seminal message of Christmas for Christians is indeed that we see Jesus as a light in the darkest of times, a source of hope in the bleakest of times, a guiding force pulling us securely forward even in uncertain and dangerous times. So I believe the focus of this service can be widened to speak effectively into the personal and cultural darkness which so often surrounds and permeates each of us and the communities which we inhabit. This is a one-time event, as is the Advent Dinner – a gift from the musicians of the Peace faith community to you and anyone you might choose to invite to join you. I hope you will make plans to be present to receive these gifts.

Finally, it might seem by plugging these two events I diminish the importance of other events, I would close by saying each and every Sunday those who lead music for your worship experiences work very hard to present their musical gifts to you. I, and they, strive to make each Sunday morning an occasion worthy of your time and attention. I look forward to the next time you are able to enjoy our worship time with us!

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