Last Friday, I put my name on a contract with a church in our Diocese that says that I will perform certain duties in return for certain considerations such as a salary, space to teach should I wish to, the right of first refusal for weddings and funerals, and all sorts of other goodies like a month of paid vacation and some continuing ed opportunities. Today I got my mail, and had received a nice little package from the Bishop's office asking for all sorts of personal information so that the Diocese can make sure that I am not an axe murderer or worse. Tomorrow, I take my first meeting with the Rector to talk about a memorial service on the 6th and to plan services for the fall. In other words, tomorrow morning, I start my first day in my new job as Music Director and Organist for a very cool Episcopal parish near the bay.
Everyone's excited. Friday my partner and I were coming back from The Rock and stopped in to see the church (believe it or not, I was on my way to sign a contract and had never even been to the building or played the instrument as it has been under major renovation--my audition took place elsewhere and all I had seen were pictures on the website!) and met one of the choir members who happened to have been on the committee. She was really excited, and so was my partner, and so was I. I have exchanged emails with the Rector, and she's really excited. Really excited. She and I are going to get along really well, and both have lots of energy and ideas.
Now what I have to think about is how to walk in to my meeting tomorrow, and my meeting with the choir on Wednesday, and into Mass (it will be a few weeks before my first Sunday because of the renovations but we will be having rehearsals) and coffee hour and have two feet on the ground. Excitement. Energy. Expectations. Ugh. Expectations--and reality.
I want to share some thoughts with you about starting a new ministry over the orange cloud of incense, but first, let's check in with who we are and why we are here tonight:
Welcome to Brothers and Sisters, the weekly meetup for prayer* and community at Daily Kos. We put an asterisk on pray* to acknowledge that not everyone uses conventional religious language, but may want to share joys and concerns, or simply take solace in a meditative atmosphere. Anyone who comes in the spirit of mutual respect, warmth and healing is welcome.
There is only one way to learn how to deal with answering a new call to ministry, I am convinced, and all the classroom learning and advice you get along the way is great, but the only way to learn how to do it effectively is to do it and to make lots of mistakes along the way. In short, experience.
I've been thinking about previous moves I have made in the past, new churches, new choirs, new clergy, in some instances new denominations, and what worked and what didn't about my approach and the whole dynamic. It's so easy to get caught up in excitement, and jumping right in (especially at this time of year when things are about to get very busy for sacred musicians, choirs, clergy, everyone who is active in Christian churches, and stay busy until Easter). It's difficult to realize that there are lots of interpersonal dynamics that you're going to encounter and that your best laid plans are going to evolve and change as you work with new folks, in new ways, in a new environment. It's easy for me to go in tomorrow and have a great meeting with my new boss who is just as excited as I am and to get wrapped up in plans and forget about the moment and the realities.
One thing I think I have learned--and I'll tell you later if I'm correct about this--is what my job is in the coming weeks. It is to be present to my Rector, Vestry, congregation, choir, everyone. Just be there, and be present, and be open. Take things in. Yes, I have to plan music and run rehearsals and make decisions. That's the least of it. What I have to do tomorrow is to be present. When I've done that, the transitions have been the best and I've been at my most effective. If we're all present and open when we approach ministry, we leave room for one another and a little room for the Holy Spirit, too.
If any of you have thoughts and experiences about how you have approached new jobs or new situations of ministry within the church, I'd love to hear what you have to share. As always, this diary a space for us to share anything we feel we'd like to share with one another--joys, concerns, prayers*, insights, hugs, sadness, tears. Peace and blessings to you all, and to the world.