Written by Barbara Wilson
By way of a continuing education opportunity, I recently attended a regional convention of the American Guild of Organists, held in Charlotte, N.C. In Charlotte, convention participants were bused to various venues, including Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S. C., site of the opening recital by French artist Olivier Latry, and several area churches which generously opened their doors for the opening and closing worship services, evening prayer, recitals, meetings, workshops and meals.
Titled The French Connection, the convention took a French theme in much of the organ music presented. I learned that the theme was chosen because several steering committee members had pursued advanced organ study in France. In fact, one of the seminars, in the context of an interview with Michael Barone, convention host and founder of the radio program Pipedreams, featured the recollections of Fulbright scholars Margaret Mueller, Professor Emerita of Organ at Salem College in North Carolina, and Robert Burns King, retired in 2007 after 45 years of service as Organist-Choirmaster of First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, N.C., about their studies with famous organists in France and Germany in the mid-1900s.
A number of works were commissioned especially for the convention, including a choral piece, Lead Kindly Light, by David Conte (b. 1955). It was sung by the Atlanta Master Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Eric Nelson, as part of their concert at First United Methodist Church, Charlotte. Another was a powerful hymn sung at the closing worship service held at Covenant Presbyterian Church: Hear the City Filled with Singing, with music composed by noted hymnwriter Sally Ann Morris and text by Mary Louise Bringle, Professor at Brevard College, incorporating imagery from the Revelation into a Te Deum- like text, while the tune has the feeling of a French Dance.
Particularly uplifting was the opening worship service at Providence United Methodist Church, where the message was delivered by the Rev. Dr. William Bradley Roberts, Professor of Church Music at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. Using Philippians 4:4-8 (Rejoice in the Lord always) as his text, he spoke of the importance of setting aside time for one’s own spiritual nourishment in preparation for providing spiritual nourishment for others. Drawing on the example of French waiters, who are fed first before serving others, he said, “Don’t eat leftovers!” He assured the congregation of church musicians that God wants to nourish, bless, and feed us, and urged us to “think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Following up on this theme at the closing worship service, Dr. Roberts reminded the assembly of the responsibilities of leadership, to “remember who we work for”, and said one’s own transformation overflows to others in a way that can’t be contained.
I couldn’t help thinking that this could be encompassing advice for all of us, as we are in some capacity both leading and serving others: to take time for our own spiritual nourishment and know that God wants to nourish, bless and feed us.
Written by Sue Lyford
Our mission in West Virginia on Butler Mountain was to tear down and rebuild a deck for a lady named Gladys. Her old deck was dilapidated and unsafe. Gladys definitely had more issues than a bad deck, roof, and mail box, all of which our group repaired, but then so do all of us as individuals. I find that even though I am able to help others and provide them with some improvement in quality of life physically and spiritually these mission trips also enable me to see where I need to improve the quality of my own life – specifically my own relationship with Christ.
My anxiety about going on the mission trip for whatever reason, whether its fear of the unknown or my social anxiety, definitely crops up and is evident to me when my eczema decides to show itself – I call it my stress bumps! It often appears before I am even aware that I’m stressed and internalizing all of my feelings and fears. Sometimes I just need to face what I dread most and most of the time I find I have nothing to dread! Trust in the Lord and He will take care of us! I seem to learn this lesson over and over and over again.
Working with the team I saw we are all in the same boat. Our anxiety and fear manifests itself in different ways. Some of us work quietly helping out any way possible, some speak their mind about everything, some worked harder or longer, some take charge of miscellaneous jobs and some avoid different jobs. Regardless we all gave our best effort and together we were able to complete our tasks for Gladys in a week’s time. It took all of us with our strengths and weaknesses. In spite of our differences in how we see and handle things we all were striving for the same thing – inner Peace – a gift from God. We all united as a group to make someone’s life better. Gladys may not get much pleasure herself out of her new deck because of her physical constraints but she can have peace knowing that others out of God’s love wanted to take care of her needs and that others will be safe walking on her deck, her roof won’t leak, and her mailbox won’t fall over.
Yet again I learned that He is in control and that in giving our troubles and concerns to God, we can find peace and comfort in knowing that He will guide us in all our missions in life.