As Deb wrote last Thursday in the Weekly Memo, Pastor Dan suggested that both she and I take a turn writing the Memo to share our thoughts about the retirement announcement made in worship Sept. 16. Since I was on vacation starting on the 17th (a vacation that was scheduled well before we decided on the announcement date), I was fortunate to have some additional time to reflect.
I was asked at Wednesday’s Cantata Choir/Chancel Choir rehearsal how long I have been leading the choir and the music at EPUMC. I started as part of the music staff in 2001 directing the Handbell Choir and co-leading the Praise Band with Martha Christiansen, our organist/accompanist at the time. However, my helping to direct the choir started several years before that. A bit of history and a time reference point will help to tell how long our family has been a part of EPUMC and my connection with the music groups.
Karen and I have been members since 1980. Our two children, Kate and Derek, were both baptized here – Kate in early 1983 in the then Sanctuary, now the Fellowship Hall, and Derek in early 1988 and the first baptism in the new Sanctuary. Karen and I joined the Chancel Choir and the Handbell Choir in the mid-1980s and Karen has continued in both groups, even if her husband is the director!
My first time directing the Choir happened while rehearsing for Christmas Eve in the early 1990s when the Choir Director, Nadia Johnson, was running late in getting here to lead the warm up and rehearsal for the 7 p.m. service. Martha Christiansen was doing her best at playing the accompaniment and trying to direct the choir. After she had stopped a couple of times while trying to do both, I moved out of the tenor section and walked over to her and quietly asked her, “Would you like me to direct?” She turned to me with a surprised but very relieved look on her face and said, “You can do that?” I said “Yes, I can.” That’s how I started, first as the unofficial assistant director filling in on vacation Sundays for Nadia and then into the position I currently hold.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a staff member. I haven’t worked with as many pastors (five!) as Deb. However, first working with Mike Miller and now working with Dan has been extremely rewarding and especially so over the past three years. Dan, Deb and I have met weekly during this time as we prepared, planned and looked to the future of EPUMC. And these meetings were more than just planning sessions. Over the past three years, I’ve seen us become a strong, collaborative team, yet not afraid to ask each other the hard questions. We listen to each other’s ideas and suggestions, always putting “what’s best for EPUMC” first. It’s this collaboration that is the reason I have the utmost respect for Dan and Deb. They are the perfect teammates!
With that said, even the best “teams” change and often changes come via retirements. For me, the time is right. As many know, I’ve had my share of physical issues for over 10 years. Three back surgeries, one with severe complications that I still deal with, have taken their toll. However, once the announcement date was decided and the announcement finally made, I felt more energized then I have in quite a while. Dan stated it well in the sermon about what, I believe, has re-energized me – The announcement is out, and now I can put all my energy into making my last year as Director of Worship and Music a great one!
The best example I can give to my re-energizing is this year’s Advent Cantata – it really is going to be great! So great, in fact, that I have to tell you I found it last year when I was selecting our 2017 Cantata, and I knew this year’s work was the one that I would use as my last Cantata. And speaking of my LAST Cantata, we had our FIRST Cantata Choir rehearsal last night, and five new singers joined us! We filled 32 of 36 chairs in the choir loft, but there’s room for more. Rehearsals are Wednesdays, following the Wednesday Night Live meal. I’d love to have you join us.
So, what do the next nine months look like for me? Yes, I am looking forward to retirement, and please feel free to talk with me about my retirement. I am looking forward to this life change and would enjoy sharing with you. But until then, I will continue to work to create wonderful music for worship. I will also celebrate these final months always remembering how blessed we are as a church family to have so many talented musicians who share their musical gifts with us and how truly blessed I have been with their dedication and commitment to EPUMC.
As Dan preached Sept. 16 and Deb wrote about last week, the church is moving into a new life cycle, and you can be part of the life cycle by doing something that is very easy – BE PRESENT! Be part of what’s going on with our church and in our church family. Be here as often as you can. Finally, I’m confident that whoever takes the director’s podium after me will have our church family’s support and will also have our talented musicians to continue to “make a joyful noise to the Lord” as you experience this new life cycle.