One year ago, I stepped away from a steady job, a comfortable New York City apartment, my closest friends and family, and went on a pilgrimage. Beginning in Seattle, I drove down the west coast of the United States over a month, stopping to visit colleagues and friends, and leading worship and workshops along the way. At the end of the trip I was invited for a six-week residency at a church in San Diego but very little was planned afterward. Call it craziness or call it faith, God gave me courage to follow an unknown path.
One year later, I’m still walking, taking the next steps as they present themselves. More work has come, good work with beautiful people around the country. I’ve since had the privilege of sojourning with several congregations as interim/transitional musician, offering help, hope, resources, affirmation, and a listening ear. I’ve found myself in creative collaboration with pastors and planning teams, reflecting on worship with bishops and deans of cathedrals, and composing lots of new music. I’ve been invited to serve as the part-time Executive Director of Music That Makes Community, which strengthens communities through singing. And beginning this fall, I'll serve as interim Seminary Musician at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO.
One year later, I'm more grateful than ever for community, for companions – those with whom I have broken bread and shared meals. I've been blessed by a company of fellow pilgrims – friends, colleagues, and family that cheer, support, and even goad me along. Just the same, this path has had its share of challenges and pitfalls, and walking it has required a new level of vulnerability and honesty. I've had to depend on the wisdom and help of others. I am learning to hold the anxious and uncomfortable pieces of life with tenderness and care.
One year later it is clearer that the Church, which for so long has imagined itself a destination, an institution, a place of unchanging tradition, is being asked to walk the pilgrim path, too. The faith communities I have worked with are experiencing seasons of discernment rather than certitude; they are reflecting on process as much as product; they are also learning to name and even embrace the anxiety that comes from stepping into unknown and uncomfortable terrain. While it seems easier to cling to the past, to micromanage or control, to hold tightly to polity, piety, or the particulars of denominational identity, it's inspiring to see how Spirit is calling these communities to spaces of deepening trust, of exploration and improvisation, of love for each other and our human family in all its beautiful diversity.
One year after stepping onto the pilgrim path, I’m reminded of Jean Sibelius’ soaring melody and text of the beloved hymn: ‘Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake to guide the future surely as the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last.’ Though the path is not always easy to discern and there are unexpected detours and challenges, the way will become clear by walking. We are on a journey of learning, step by step, to trust the faithfulness of the Holy One. We are on a risky but forgiving path where we discover, again and again, that we are deeply loved and treasured by God.
May God give us all we need to continue to walk in confidence, grace, and in joy!