Saturday, January 19, 2008
So you are the Assistant...
Last night there was a Service of Consecration for a friend, and long time member of our congregation, who has become a diaconal minister. I was asked to serve as cantor for the service which was being held in my home parish. I would be happy to share in this great moment for him and for the Church.
Well.. when I got to the church last evening, I was handed a service binder, and it was then that I learned that I was not simply singing, but was serving as the Assistant in worship. Full court worship, so to speak with all of the liturgical solemnity good German Lutherans can bring to bear. A chance to do things we only talked about in Worship class- thanks Dr. Oldenburg! Not merely intoning a kyrie, but leading the prayers of the church, processing with the gospeller, assisting the bishop during the Great Thanksgiving and Holy Communion and the sending. And since this is my home congregation, during the rehearsal suddenly I was answering lots of questions for the bishop and visiting pastors about our worship practices for setting the table, communion, etc, etc, etc.
Now I am a self-confessed worship junkie, but me mere first year seminarian. And I somehow have agonized more over serving in worship once I really started to think about it in seminary. I am, after all,also a fretter. So I think God blessed me with ignorance of my role until yesterday so I could not obsess over it. And fortuitously my alb was at the church. As we were preparing, my pastor who only had to make announcements, and read the Gospel, assured me all would be fine, you'll be great, the congregation will be proud.
Meant to reassure me, it hit me. My congregation- they are all watching. My friend- this is his really big moment. All of these pastors and visitors.
Why am I wearing a long sleeved shirt? I am suddenly very warm.
And I am being told that the bishop will follow my lead during communion and post-communion. No worries, no pressure, it is not a performance, it is worship.
"Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid." As so often is the case, the best things happen when God calls the tune and not me.
After all, this is what you believe you are called to do. And I love worship.
And ironically, though I served wearing my alb when I am in my home parish for several months now, it was only yesterday that anyone noticed it. Although I have been a seminarian since August, if it is possible, yesterday when I processed with the pastors, I became "our seminarian."
And just before the procession, in the back row, is my friend with cancer, who waves, and holds up the chain around her neck- my cross. " I love the prayers you recorded for me and the doctor says I can have wine!" with a smile.
So as we begin the procession in behind the choir, it suddenly all feels - right.
And I begin the kyrie.
About the third petition, it hits me again. For a nanosecond, I think I will have no breath to sing the next phrase.But it passes, by the work of the Spirit, and with the exception of my Beloved who detected the one second pause, no one is any the wiser. "You sounded great- there was one brief pause where I thought, is she going to croak? But you didn't." "And your voice sounded different. It has for awhile- you used to sound like a lawyer, now you sound, well, like a pastor."
What a wonderful and affirming time for my friend as many gathered to support him in the official beginning of his call to Word and Witness and Service to the world. And on the day of the Confession of Saint Peter, a fitting time for remembering a confession of faith and a setting apart for service.
At the reception after, we had a good laugh about my face when I was handed the service binder, and celebrated this new chapter in his life. Members of my home parish were telling me I should be able to get some kind of credit at seminary -"just show them the bulletin."
And people were talking about "someday when you are a pastor." I thought I was just showing up to sing, but I left with another step in the affirmation of call and a step further in redefining my relationship with my home church and the Church. What a gift and what a rush!
Lord, we give you thanks for all who serve your church. Guide and sustain pastors, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and all who serve. May they know your abiding presence. May we together be one in mission to proclaim your creative and redeeming Word to all the world.Amen.