This past Sunday...

This past Sunday was a good day.

My wife, bless her, came down in the early hours of the morning to lead the choir as a replacement for the person who was replacing the actual leader who was with family. Apparently the substitute was sick but it all worked out. When you have a church where a good Sunday is 30 people a few families out or off can make a big difference. A flu bug can wreak havoc.

In that light I suppose of all the things I could change at St. Elias it would the casualness that sometimes pervades the place. There are a core of people who work extraordinarily hard but there are others who just seem to fade in and out. In a large parish this could be absorbed but in a tiny church, a small mission really, the effects are significant. In the almost four years I've been there I've been waiting for the spark, that light that turns people from spectators to participants. I see it in some, its needed in others, and I hope it comes before time and the economy take their toll.

These are good people, but I wish I had that special something to help some of them see how they need to make the church a serious and central part of their lives. Years of being a backwater in the Archdiocese with no help and no leadership and then the posting of Priests without a strategy for growth have taken their toll. The parish is nearly a century old and still hanging on. I keep trying to tell them that they could be something special, and they could, but sometimes I don't think many of them believe it and my heart breaks even as I admire their tenacity. I think about that a lot on the way home. Years ago I would have despaired but this is not in my hands, never was, and so I pray and wait and hope. God is still God.

Yet it was a good day. The drive home was safe and for some reason I never tire of the scenery. The hills and trees and wide winding river have not lost their fascination or their charm. There's always something new around the bend and I could see myself retiring in one the small river towns to finish out my life with cats, reading, writing, and music.

It was music, by the way, that made the day. I've been playing the bass for some years now and discovered a group meeting near my house for an informal Sunday night jam. It's mostly folk and blues with a smattering of three chord rock and home grown tunes presented by the writers in the group. It's all acoustic so I didn't know if they were going to let me and my electric upright bass in, but they did.

I didn't know what to expect. Were these folks professionals? Was I going to be in over my head and doomed to spend the rest of the night picking up the scraps of tunes? Well, the truth is that they were good players, serious hobbyist guitar players who needed a serious hobbyist bassist to round out the sound. I didn't get every song right but I flowed in nicely and when the night was done I was invited back. Both the music and the affirmation were good. The older I get the less afraid I am of stepping up and playing. If I'd have been a teenager I would have been scared stiff but nearly 50 I'm just going to go for it and let the chips fall where they may.

I really enjoy the bass, it's not the splashiest instrument but its a lot of fun if you let it fulfill its calling. If you're a bassist you'll probably never be the star but you almost always find a place to play because things don't sound right without that steady low thump holding the "stars" in the sky. No matter how the bass has been electrified and modified there is, as well, something about playing it standing up, full neck no frets with the clean woody sound people need to dance. I had an absolutely great time and wish I could do it every night but once a week is good for now.

I've been blessed with a lot of good things, more than I can count on my fingers and toes and probably yours as well (although that sounds kind of wierd). Among those gifts is music of all kinds, music that almost constantly flows in my head, music that comes out on paper, music I play without thinking at all, and music I play with people. My IPod has everything from the Ramones to Orthodox chant, George Jones to Mozart and the Andrews Sisters. Presuming I make it, by the grace of God, to heaven I surely would like to think about holding down the low end in whatever orchestra is constantly praising the Almighty (Can you imagine the absolutely sublime music of heaven?). If I don't get the songs down the first time I'll be okay because a few thousand years of practice and I should be awesome.


Mimi said...

Father, bless,

Beautiful reflection on music in our lives and the way we worship God.

And, thanks be to God your wife could substitute.

s-p said...

I too love an eclectic spectrum of music and play guitar by ear, not well enough any more to sit in with anyone halfway serious. But the electric stand up bass? Have you ever seen Reverend Horton Heat's bass player in concert? Oh man....

s-p said...

Here's a link to one of his songs that the bass player gets a solo


but check out a couple of the other videos on youtube, it gives stand up bass a whole new meaning.

Fr John said...

My instrument comes from Ergo Instruments www.ergoinstruments.com and the guy who builds them has a passion, in the best sense of the word, for building affordable high quality basses that working musicians can use.

I'm saving up for an acoustic upright but it may take a while because I prefer not to go into serious debt and they can cost thousands.

There are bassists out there who play at a level I could only achieve if I won the lottery and spent the next 20 years practicing but I still love to play and the folks I'm jamming with now are at all skill levels so right now I fit right in.

When my traveling days are done I hope to find a small combo to play with on anything from the back porch to the local stage. I don't have to be a star, I'm just happy to be in the back thumpin out time.