Have you ever had the feeling of complete stimulation, creative challenge, and deep exhaustion, all while operating at the edges of your comfort zone? That is how I spent the week last week. I have just returned from teaching and leading worship at the Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy. The Mississippi Conference, in its 37th year, is designed primarily to support church musicians in smaller parishes, to expose them to new music, to feed their souls and to charge them up for another year of parish ministry. Every year they invite a clergy person and two renowned musicians to be the faculty. Together we decided on a theme in January and planned the music. Our theme was looking at the sometimes fraught relationships between clergy and church musicians.

My work was to develop the curriculum that would shape the week. Through the lens of clergy/musician relationships, we began our time meditating on Paul’s passage in First Corinthians (12: 4-31) about all of the different parts that make up the body. We all have special unique gifts, each of equal importance. The eye is not more important than the foot, and though they are radically different, they are each necessary for the whole body. We spent some time looking at the differences within our own group, looking at the places in our life where we have experienced being in power and the places where we do not. We discovered that those who have power rarely realize they have it - it’s just the water of entitlement they swim in -and that those who don’t have power always know they don’t and who does. We looked at the havoc and pain the misuse of power can bring can cause. Finally, we found ourselves at the foot of the cross where our own brokenness and separation from God and one another found healing and reconciliation in naming as wrong our sins or those that have been done to us. And then choosing to forgive and love anyway. We were transformed in and through the body of Christ.

This experience used absolutely every gift I have and then some; from officiating at a musically complex choral evensong, to teaching yoga classes in addition to my other sessions, to managing  the group dynamics, to preaching on Sunday with Bishop Gray presiding, to singing hard music with  the choir (my sight reading is not so strong), to singing as part of a quartet for the cabaret. There was not much downtime and much of it was nerve-wracking, but oh, I would sign up to do it again tomorrow.

We were filled with all the fullness of God through glorious music, rich harmonizing, delicious chords, nourishing liturgies and some especially tasty bites of silence. We shared fellowship, tears, and laughter, fried okra, champagne, and chocolate. We came to set our burdens down, to bask in the presence of God that we found in each other and in the experience of making wonderful music together. Sigh…..