"Anytime life ousts us from our places of security,
we are called upon to bring ourselves fully present to our experience."
– John Valters Paintner, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within
The past year has provided many invitations to practice how to be fully present in the midst of change. A little over a year ago I imagined I was leaving full-time music ministry to embark on a new vocation in the non-profit world. I said goodbye to Park Avenue Christian Church and dove into a new position at the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation, assisting two of the most seasoned and dedicated individuals in the classical music business. The experience was invaluable and I am grateful for the way it has shaped me as a person and as a leader.
But rather than feel my interest in the church wane, time away reminded me of what I missed. Weekends off and time with family during the holidays were a gift, something I hadn’t experienced in almost 20 years. But colleagues and friends invited me to offer leadership in their congregations as a guest organist, choir director or song leader, my heart continued to tell me that my deepest calling is to ministry: to share music in a way that helps renew, re-shape and build faith communities; to awaken individuals to the musical gifts within and around them; and to write new music that helps expand our language of praise and prayer. This is truly a life-long calling and, with God’s help, I am stepping back into ministry again.
In mid-July, I step out of regular employment into life as an itinerant church musician and consultant. I’ll begin with a journey to the West Coast of the US, slowly moving south from Seattle to San Diego on a sort of pilgrimage. Unlike a vacation or a business trip, I’ll stay with different faith communities for several days and even weeks at a time, hoping to encounter these places and these communities in a way that changes me and shapes my ongoing discernment process. And I will serve as a resource to them: leading music in worship services and hymn sings; composing new music; facilitating workshops and small groups; and providing worship and music consulting for congregations in transition. I’ll travel lightly and, as Richard Rohr writes in a recent meditation on St. Francis, will attempt to ‘live on the edge of the church in a very different lifestyle than simply running the church institution.’
I’m not sure whether itinerant ministry is an ongoing calling or a step toward something else but I embrace what I believe to be Divine leading. And I am grateful for the opportunity to step back into music ministry in a way I could never have imagined.
May the Holy One journey with us all in the months to come and bring us safely home again!
- Paul Vasile