What a great day! Lots of great music, new starts, and God was in it all.
This morning, we tried a new thing at church. It was a healing service, which includes a time when members of the congregation can come up to the altar for anointing and laying-on-of-hands. Usually, the choir will sing something soft and lovely during this time. Well, Dad thought it might be nice to have just piano music during the healing, and then have special music after. That way, everyone, healers included, could hear the message of the choir's song. Today, we started this new format, but instead of having a choir song, Gerald sang our new song, God is There.
I was so nervous! Partly for Gerald (now I know how my Mom feels when I sing) and partly for the song. I just wanted people to feel ... I don't know. Just something. The words came from such a deeply personal place, and I guess I just wanted them to mean something to someone else as well. At the end of the healing, Boni drifted off the piano, and the guitar came in - quietly, softly, with that beautiful intro that Gerald has written. "When the nightmare can't be silenced, God is there". I took a deep breath. I had to close my eyes. Otherwise, I found myself looking at people for their reactions, and I really didn't want to do that. I closed my eyes and just listened. It was so beautiful. Gerald played with an open heart and a full soul. The words were clear and perfect. When he reached the ending, there was silence. That full awesome silence of a message truly imparted. The service continued into prayers and communion.
After the service, the reaction was tremendous. People loved being able to hear the music. They adored Gerald - his voice, his playing, his presence. But mostly, they loved the song. They loved the song! I was so excited and so proud. More than ever, I feel this song must go out to people. I want to do a demo and just start getting it out to artists. I want it recorded and sung. I want people to know that even in the darkest times, God is there. God is there.
This afternoon, brought another new experience - Gospel Vespers. Some time last year, Dad said he was interested in starting a new evening service that incorporated gospel music, and that allowed us to create a new kind of worship service. Something different from what we offer Sunday morning. Something that could appeal to church-goers, and those who might never have come to church. We formed a committee, got a small budget, and decided to offer a service once a month. My job was to find a different musical group for each service.
Today's service was based on the story of the Good Samaritan. Joy in the Morning gospel choir were our music leaders. They were great. A mix of folk, hymns, praise and worship, and taize. They had several singers, and a band consisting of guitar, bass, ukelele, clarinet, djembe, and several rhythm instruments. Their harmonies were subtle and confident. But their spirit is what impressed me most. They invited me to join in their prayer time before the service. It was genuine and moving. And their support for the service was very reassuring.
After an opening time of music, we had the lighting of the candles. We were inspired by the Good Samaritan, and lit three candles in honour of caregivers in our city, country, and the world. It was a quiet and contemplative part of the service. Of course, figuring out which candles to light and how to get the flame passed around was the most complicated part of choreographing the whole service. My candle was huge and placed on the altar, and ended up being to tall for me to light. So Dad needed to come out, lift it off the altar, and help me light it. Not such a contemplative moment!
We had more music, and a great welcome from our church warden. Then we had the message. Dad decided to do a dramatic interpretation of the story. Mom wheeled him out in a wheelchair. It was Mom's first, and probably last, appearance as preacher. (Not that she couldn't preach if she wanted to - she's just not a spotlight kind of gal!) Dad sat at the edge of the platform and let us take in the image. He then told us "his" story of how he got to be in the chair. How he had been traveling one day, and how he was attacked by robbers. How he had lain in a ditch, while a neighbour and a priest passed him by. But then this Samaritan came by, and cooled his head and soothed his wounds. Today is the day he will leave his wheelchair, and he is going to leave a changed man. This Samaritan had helped him, and now, he has taken a vow, a pledge, to always help those who are in need. Those suffering because of their own actions, and those suffering from the actions of others. Those in need from all levels of society. He then asked us, how we felt we could make the same pledge. How can we help those in need?
The choir then sang a song about helping our neighbours. Nancy, their director, then lead us in prayer. Again, we were looking for something different here. We offer traditional intercessions every Sunday morning, so we wanted to try a new form. Or, at least, new for us. We decided we wanted to pray in a way that was a little more free form. Nancy would say a short prayer on a topic, and would then encourage us to add our own petitions. It was really moving. We then sang a few more songs, and ended on Joyful, Joyful.
What a great service! There were moments of joy, contemplation, music, and community. The reaction after the service was wonderful. And it was like no one wanted to leave. People stayed around for a good forty minutes after the service, just talking and sharing. What a great time!
I'm always proud of my Dad, but times like this are so amazing. This service was his brainchild, and I think today was a great success. Our next one is in October, and our choir will be the music leader. I'm just continuing to pray that God will bless our new venture, and that people will come and feel the Spirit moving in the house, and in themselves.