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    A View from the Pew

    Building the reign of God - is that my job? 

    Today, a New England parish in Southeastern Massachusetts birthed a new psalmist and cantor at the invitation of one of the parish organists. Recently graduated this past June with a degree in vocal performance with a concentration in opera, Jackie’s gifts in voice and performance planted a seed within the mind of the parish organist, a ‘veteran’ in the field of pastoral music. The organist insightfully identified a new young leader of song as, over time, he observed Jackie’s vocal ability and musicianship, her friendliness, humor and warmth. With gentle encouragement, the organist prompted Jackie to ‘put on’ this new role of liturgical leadership as a psalmist and cantor by offering her an opportunity to lead assembly song for several weekends in his parish.

    Before Mass began, the parish organist addressed the assembly and introduced Jackie, giving a succinct history of her music background, telling them that this was Jackie’s first time as a cantor. He respectfully invited the assembly to welcome this young woman with their robust singing. I could hear murmurs of approval throughout the organist’s introductory remarks he spoke to the assembly. As he ended his remarks, the assembly embraced Jackie with a spontaneous round of salutary applause as a way of issuing their wholehearted approval. New beginnings can be a scary business for anyone at any age and this parish knew that we all need a pat on the back from time to time to keep us moving forward. Bravo, church. 

    Props to the organist for recognizing his own role and extending Christ’s summons to follow him by putting our best gifts at the disposal of the church. Is that our job as ‘church’? You bet it is. We all need to invite young people into ministry through our relationships with them. Do you know a young person? When was the last time you asked if they might be interested in participating in your ministry? What are you doing for succession planning?

    Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the value of personal invitation because of social networking, which admittedly plays an invaluable role in outreach. However, we can never presume that Facebook replaces face-to-face. We follow Jesus, the master of relationships. Pentecost doesn’t mean the end of a season. It’s a birthing of the reign of God here and now, in this time and place, through our relationships and invitation to know Jesus. How else will the countless gifts of the Spirit be put to work for the good of church if we don’t do our ‘homework’ and invite, embrace, teach, explore, encourage  and challenge those who may want to ‘seek and find’ but may not know how to even begin? How are we conduits of the Spirit of God, breathing new life into the Church?

    This morning, I witnessed that Spirit at work because a pastoral musician’s understanding of his own Christian discipleship led him to extend a personal invitation in the name of the Church to a young artist to share her gifts in sacred song.  A vibrant young liturgical musician stepped out of her ‘opera’ box and into a leadership role in a beautiful way for a very receptive assembly who understand their own role as ministers of the liturgy and disciples of Jesus. By George, I think they’ve got it.  

    More next week on the role of the cantor. Until then, how will you breathe new life into the church this week?