The question of what I should do with my life has been floating through my various vocational choices since I graduated from college, married Beth, and started making phone calls about getting gigs. My initial dilemma was after a job interview I had with a Presbyterian church in Philadelphia resulted in a real offer of a church music job as we were getting ready to marry in June 1972. One week before our marriage, the offer was tabled as the church considered someone else, and we decided to strike out on a performance career-- self-employed, self-motivated, and self-confident.
Today I am in my 8th year of directing a church music program, and the question of my calling is constantly before me. I am in a very supportive environment, and people are used to my doing well, so that's not it. Rather, there always seems to be another line of musical work that seems more romantic, more creative, or more satisfying.
Well, last week I realized that I was where I should be. Our church music department sponsored a music conference for cross- and multi-cultural music ministers. We started a year ago contacting other like ministries, and focussing on the other churches in our immediate orbit, the New City Fellowship churches. From direct promotion to the creation of a songbook, the initiation of a web site for NCFMusic to the planning of the event itself and the creation of materials and a line-up of seminar leaders. The pastor, Randy Nabors, was supportive but not directive. He attended the plenary sessions and gave a morning talk. The pastor of NCF-East Lake also gave a passionate homily on Friday night about the throne of God and all kinds of people approaching it together.
The conference was successful on several levels. Attendance is usually the first thing people think of in reference to success, and we had 60-70 attendees at a 2-day event. Some came from as far away as Phoenix, Miami, and Atlantic City. Others were local walk-ins responding to a self-created radio spot on a small AM black gospel radio station.
But attendance is not the only measure. The excitement of praise is a powerful reviver, and we had strong, sustained praise sessions without apology or unnecessary rationalization. ( I hate it when music conferences talk and talk about praise!) I was struck by the limits of our facilities at New City, and I made an effort to lay out the Fellowship Hall to invite fellowship and musical interaction. We set up a band of stage gear and mics, and the folks took over all the time. It was cool.
The racial mix was nearly perfect. The churches were mostly conventional denominational congregations, and this was not a charismatic event as such although I've been to charistmatic churches that didn't dance and shout like we did.
I could go on, but I also spent some time writing out a speech to give to the group. "Musicians not Magicians" was a challenge to us a church worship leaders to be realistic with our talents and resources in cross-cultural music because we can't just make a yellow silk scarf red, musically speaking.
I felt fulfilled, useful, creative, and I felt like I was doing something that is not mainstream yet, but promises to be a growing need in the US as people of color continue to grow and the the dynamic of racial divides becomes more and more defining. I felt like a person of faith who looked for a city that God is building, not the culture.
I am thankful to God for giving us a strong time together, structured but not limiting and definitely spiritually envigorating for all.
I still dream about doing other things; I may even do something different in the next decade. But this week I was doing what I have been called to do.
Oh, and we even made money.
- I am a person who is perceived as youthful, although I am in my late 50s. I play and sing music, and it tends to keep me in the culture, like a lot of young people do. I am a "high I" on the DISC Behavioral Test, which means I'm optimistic, enthusiastic, a team player, and I motivate others toward goals. I don't like exercise, but I have a high metabolism, so I don't tend to be overweight at this time in my life! I have recently been doing moderate exercise and physical therapy for a shoulder condition.