Tag Archives: Emmanuel Music

Adventures on the Island of Misfit Toys

A couple of years ago, PW and a local rabbi presided over the wedding of a Romanian Orthodox Christian woman and a Russian Orthodox Jewish man. The wedding ceremony included a chuppa, a three crowns ceremony, and a eucharist, with challah made by the groom’s grandmother who lives in Israel and wine made by the bride’s father. I’m not sure what the grandmother thought happened at communion, because the challah loaf was approximately the size of a miniature pony.

At the wedding, some of the groom’s family surprised PW by lining up to receive communion, along with the bride’s family. In a scene that has long since taken on a life of its own, PW quickly changed the words of distribution to “Bread for the Journey” when she put bread in the hands of the Jewish family members (instead of “the body of Christ.”) She hadn’t had time to suggest alternate words to the chalice bearer, so she heard him repeat as he followed along behind her, “Blood for the Journey” (instead of “the blood of Christ.”)

Can I just say that, to me, never is Christian liturgy more like a Monty Python sketch than during communion? Of course I can, this is my website! The scene above is reason #814 why I wish Christianity would move past this yucky body and blood of Christ business. The first 813 reasons are that it’s just gross. This is the 21st century, folks. Must we STILL be littering our liturgies with the language of cannibalism and vampirism? But I digress.

This same couple brought their new baby to church last Sunday for the Jewish ceremony for naming a daughter, and a baptism. The church bulletin included the Jewish prayers in both English and Hebrew, along with the usual Episcopal baptism liturgy. In addition, we had the Boston Children’s Chorus as guest musicians, so we had a house full of company, so to speak. I’m sure most of us have never been involved in a service like this until Sunday.

Here's part of the worship bulletin for last Sunday

Male members of the groom’s/father’s family all wore matching bright pink kippot, perhaps in celebration of the new baby daughter? No idea what the color signified, if anything, but it was stunning. After brief remarks by PW and the rabbi, the families were invited up to the front for the Jewish ceremony, which included a Chair of Elijah and ceremonial sips of sweet wine from a kiddush cup. Immediately following, everyone moved down to the baptismal font for the baptism.

In PW’s comments prior to the two ceremonies, she noted that the baby girl (whose name combines the Greek word for “wisdom” with the Hebrew word for “life”) would have full dual citizenship as a Jew and a Christian. This will likely be a stumbling block for many on both sides of her citizenship aisle, since we humans are notoriously exclusively-minded. I can hear it now:

“What religion are you?”
“I’m Jewish and Christian.”
“What? You can’t be both?”
“Yes I can!”
“No you can’t!”
“I already am!”
“No you aren’t!”
“Oh yes I AM!”

This imagined conversation reminds me of the time I picked up GForce at preschool one day and overheard a boy asking where her dad was and why he didn’t ever pick her up.

“Who is your dad?”
“I don’t have a dad. I have three moms.”
“You can’t have three moms!”
“Well, I do!”
“But where’s your dad?”
“I don’t have a dad.”
“WHAT? Why do you have three moms and no DAD!”
“Because THAT’S how I wanted it!”

The next time I saw that kid’s mom, she told me that her son went home that night wondering why he only had one mom. She and I had a good laugh about that.

For the life of me, I cannot fathom how Christian and Jewish communities can justify any kind of exclusiveness – particularly when it comes to hosting ceremonies that mark rites of passage: weddings, baptisms, naming ceremonies, funerals, etc. If anything, these are the occasions when faith communities should be throwing open their doors.

Believe it or not, even opening communion to anyone who wants to participate is STILL a radical thing to do in the Christian tradition. Crazy, right? Thankfully, PW’s eucharistic theology is basically this: if you put your hands out, she will put bread in them. She’s not going to bother interviewing you about whether you’ve been baptized or attended membership classes or whether you’ve repented for anything. She doesn’t even care if you are Christian, Jewish, Atheist, whatever. If you want bread, you get bread. She’s a rebel like that.

I won’t even bother getting into the handwringing hoohaw that various strains of both Christians and Jews go through over whether queer people can/should be ordained, and if so, to what level. Really? Both the Christian and Jewish faith traditions are rooted in generations of people being exiled, outcast, persecuted, and annihilated. So what do we do? Well, we exile, outcast, persecute, and annihilate. Or, we study things to death in hopes that the people who want to join our ranks (as well as the issues they bring with them) will give up and/or go away — which is just a more passive form of exiling, casting out, persecuting, and annihilating.

Emmanuel Church has a reputation for having no residency or belief requirements for membership, weddings, baptisms, communion, you name it. As a result, we end up hosting ceremonies and casts of characters that force us to re-examine what it means to be inclusive, and occasionally struggle with how inclusive we really want to be. It’s good, stretchy work. Like any stretch, sometimes it leaves us feeling uncomfortable. And sometimes, what feels perfect to one group of people feels jarring and disturbing to another group. Still, I’d rather be stretched than frozen any day, even if it means occasionally feeling like we’re a kind of Island of Misfit Toys.

I’m pretty sure that the combination Jewish/Christian ceremonies we had this past Sunday would not have happened without our ongoing and deepening relationship with Boston Jewish Spirit and their Rabbi Howard Berman. PW refers to the relationship as “an interfaith family,” which testifies both to our deep commitment and struggles to understand and work with each other, set in an environment of mutual affection, admiration, and respect. It can be hard work, swimming against the tide of centuries of mutual suspicion and distrust, as well as the overt anti-Semitism that is threaded through much of the Christian Testament. But swim we do, and our two congregations have formed a kind of buddy system in the ways we look out for and help each other.

As a capper to Sunday’s extraordinary liturgy, we had a stunning moment during the Bach cantata. At the beginning of the instrumental prelude for the tenor aria in BWV 96 – “Herr Christ, der einige Gottes sohn,” I noticed that the tenor credited in the bulletin was not moving toward the front for his solo. I looked down at my bulletin to make sure I was looking for the right tenor.

By the time I looked back up, the conductor (who used to be a tenor in the chorus before he was selected to be the new music director) had turned to face the congregation, holding the big, clothbound conductor’s score in his hands. The orchestra continued playing without a conductor and Ryan sang the aria beautifully.

At coffee hour after church, I learned that Ryan found out only that morning that the regularly scheduled tenor was having throat problems and wouldn’t be able to sing the aria. None of the other tenors in the chorus had ever sung that particular aria before, so not even an hour before the service started, Ryan decided to sing it himself.

Several people told me after the service that the expression on my face was priceless when I looked up to see Ryan readying himself to sing. Apparently, a look of rapturous amazement remained on my face throughout, and Ryan told me later that looking at my face helped him get through the aria. I had absolutely no idea that I was providing any assistance whatsoever. I was just sitting there, awestruck by the whole morning.

It’s cool and curious how the simple act of showing up and staying open to the crazy possibilities of life can sustain the people around us. And, most of the time, you’re lucky if you find out that you’ve provided this support. Moments earlier, I myself had drawn similar inspiration and sustenance from the brilliant pink kippot bobbing around the empty chair for Elijah and then the baptismal font.

The other day I read an interview with Tom Waits in the New York Times. In the interview, he shared what he tells the sidemen who play in his band or on his records: “I want you to play like you’re 7 years old at a recital. I want you to play like your mom’s in the room. I want you to play like you’re miles from home, and your legs are dangling from a boxcar. Or play like your hair’s on fire. Play like you have no pants on.”

If you substitute the word “worship” for the word “play” in the above quotation, that’s what church was like for me on Sunday. Full of surprise, sweetness, boldness, jarring moments, and tiny shards of time that took my breath away – like watching the Jewish and Christian parents of a newly welcomed baby walk up to the communion rail together for a blessing, or like watching the orchestra play without their conductor, because he has turned to face the congregation and is singing like an angel. It turns out, sometimes you figure out how to do things you’ve never done before by just, well, doing them.

A song didn’t come to mind for me today, so I’m sharing this fabulous clip from the movie “Three Kings.” It was playing in my head the whole time I was writing.

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Advent playlist – Part 1: Between two voices and tutti

I’ve heard a lot of goosebump-inducing live music lately. Over the past couple of weeks, Emmanuel Music’s worship service offerings have included Igor Stravinsky’s “Ave Maria,” Arvo Pärt’s “Magnificat,” and deliciously rich Bach Cantatas. Last Friday afternoon, an anonymous donor made it possible for PW and me to attend the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s mind-blowing program of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, John Harbison’s Second Symphony, and Schumann’s Second Symphony.

I don’t know about you, but my experience of music — especially live music — is that it goes right into my cells, settling in there among the mitochondria, lysosomes, and, my personal favorite cell component, the Golgi Apparatus. I don’t just hear music with my ears. When I’m listening to live music that moves me, I feel as though I’m hearing it with my whole being, as though my body has become a sounding board.

Emmanuel Music’s recent offering of Stravinsky’s “Ave Maria” bathed me in goosebumps, and then cracked me open like an egg. I have absolutely no attachment to or history with the prayer Ave Maria, or to the sappy musical settings that the text often receives. I didn’t grow up in a religious tradition that spent much time talking about Mary, much less praying to her. So I didn’t see it coming — this business of getting cracked open. I certainly didn’t expect to be completely liquified before the Emmanuel Music singers had finished singing the first phrase.

I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same experience listening to this through your computer, but if you haven’t heard this piece before, I’d wager your musical life is missing an essential texture. I think it’s particularly important to have this echoing in your ears before you listen to Pärt’s “Magnificat,” which comes next on our Advent playlist.

Annoyance warning: after you click the play button on the video below, you’ll have to click on the “Watch on YouTube” link to hear this. They won’t let me embed the video into the website. Sheesh.

In last Sunday’s bulletin, Ryan Turner’s Music Notes for Pärt’s “Magnificat” described the texture of the piece as alternating “between two voices and tutti.” When I read that, I knew I had a title for a post for this website. I love the rhythm of the phrase, and the way that the friction between the English and the Italian words echoes the friction of the music itself.

If you play the video below, you can hear what I mean, particularly if the Stravinsky has already wound its way into your cells. Don’t bother watching the video. Just click play, close your eyes, and listen to what “between two voices and tutti” sounds like.

And now for something completely different. Just this morning, somewhere in the midst of re-scheduling my half-century hazing ritual whose medical term is “colonoscopy,” making an appointment for my annual checkup with the eye doctor, and working on our 2010 Holiday Letter, I stumbled across this song about birth. Since Advent is an expectant, pregnant season, I couldn’t resist adding this infectiously happy song to the playlist. Rubblebucket’s “Came Out Of A Lady” swarms with all kinds of tutti-ness.

Lucy with her flat penguin

Hairpin turn warning: If you’re still basking in the post-Stravinsky-Pärt glow, you might not be ready for Rubblebucket just now. Musically, it’s a little like sitting in a comfy chair, sipping tea, quietly reading a collection of Rumi’s poetry, when suddenly an overly friendly dog shoves her nose under your arm and drops an eviscerated, formerly-stuffed animal in your lap. However, if you’ve had it up to here with quiet wintertime reflection and are ready to shake shake shake your booty, then by all means press play and invent a Happy Advent Dance.

Bravi tutti!

A tip o’ the hat and a rib-cracking virtual hug to my friend and college classmate Martin for posting this video on Facebook.  If you’re not aware of the whole concept of a “flash mob,” then this is as good an introduction as any.  What I love about this video is that they’ve done such a great job of capturing the faces of the unsuspecting people who were treated to this event.  Imagine, there you are, a tourist taking in the cacophony of sights and smells of the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, PA, and an opera breaks out.  Or maybe you’re a regular shopper there, making your routine visit to pick up your favorite Italian groceries, or freshly ground horseradish, and suddenly a large man next to you begins to sing in a booming voice, from a famous scene in “La Traviata.”

My reactions to this sort of thing are layered.  I am amazed and exhilarated that people think these things up and then pull them off.  I almost always wish I had been there to see it.  One of the many reasons I love the Internet is that if I wasn’t there to see something like this, I can still watch it over and over again.  Somewhere in the layers of my reaction to this one is, “Man, what must it be like to walk around in this world knowing that you can make that kind of sound with your voice?  That must be SO cool.”

So, Emmanuel Music, how about a flash mob in the Boston area?  Faneuil Hall?   That mall over in the Prudential Center?

Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren

A couple of Sundays ago, the chorus of Emmanuel Music sang a motet “Der Herr denket an uns,” which is #9 in Johann Hermann Schein’s “Israels Brünnlein” collection, or whatever it’s called by people who know these things.  The text is from Psalm 115, verses 12-15.   I sat there in my usual spot, soaking up the beauty in my usual way – not following along in the program but just watching the singers, players, and John Harbison’s conducting dance.  And listening.  Listening with a ferocious desire for bigger ears so I could take in this miracle of sound that we call music.  I’ve heard that the ears continue to grow throughout one’s life; what a great place for this wish to be coming true!

As I sat there imagining myself floating in a pool of shimmering sound, the sound suddenly stopped.  I snapped back to attention to see John’s hands hovering in the air, then cueing the players and singers to their next entry point.  I looked down at the program to see where they were and, to my delight, they were repeating the line again:  “Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren” or in English “You are the blessed of the Lord.”  The pauses between the lines were long enough to create, in me anyway, an intense feeling of leaning forward, anticipating, feeling that pull of “What’s next?”  The silence of the pauses was, as I suppose musicians already know, a kind of music in itself.

This line, “Ihr Seid die Gesegneten des Herren” was repeated at least three times when I heard it.  In the recording I found, it’s repeated six times.  So maybe that’s how EMI performed it, but I honestly can’t remember because I was so completely transported I lost count.  I found myself scooping up these silences like prized stones found on a beach, filling my hands and pockets with them.  And it is these silences that are most vivid in my memory of this event.

I’m still floating on this little musical offering, two weeks later.  Thanks to my local library, I found a collection of the “Israels Brünnlein” that has this little gem in it, so you can hear it at the end of this entry.  The repetitions of this phrase and the accompanying pauses start at about 2:20.  I don’t expect the recording to have exactly the same rapturous effects as my hearing it live did.  For one, what you don’t get to see when you listen to a recording is the relationship between conductor, players and singers.  This was particularly delightful to see during these pauses – the intensity of the waiting, the anticipation, the alertness, the readiness, the commitment to the next measure.  Goosebumps.

It’s easy to feel like “the blessed of the Lord” when music like this is echoing around in my brain.  Plus, today is Mother’s Day, and I always feel particularly blessed on this day.  I’m blessed to have an incredibly brave, resilient mother who has accompanied me through various bumps, blind curves, hairpin turns, and occasionally goofy or heart-stopping rides in life’s clown car.  I’m blessed to be a mother of three extraordinary daughters – two of whom I inherited when PW and I combined our lives and our families and one of whom chose me to escort her into this life.  These three have been such a blessing to me that I can barely remember what life was like without them.  I know I lived before I knew them, but that past is dim, blurred, and flatter.  I’m also blessed to get to mother with the woman whose mothering – and whose children – convinced me that I could be a mother, too.

Johann Hermann Schein created the “Israels Brünnlein” in 1623, but the need to hear “Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren” over and over is as keen now as it was then.  Each brief and ballistic pause reminds me of more ways that I’m blessed.  Imagine living every moment of every day with this feeling of blessedness woven into every fiber of our being.  Mother’s Day is as good a day as any to begin living this way.  Even if you’re not a mother, you have a mother, or you have people who have mothered you, or you have people or creatures or ideas or dreams that you care for as a mother.

Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herren.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Manfred Cordes conducting Weser -Renaissance Bremen in Johann Hermann Schein’s “Der Herr denket an uns” from “Israels Brünnlein”

“the soprano sings an intimate and gracious air punctuated by surprising unison choral outbursts”

I have so many shout-outs today, it occurs to me that maybe I should start a tradition of Shout-out Sunday here at The Crooked Line.

First, to my beloved friends from college, Martin & Heather, who are creating something wild and wonderful down in the Texas Hill Country: Madroño Ranch, A Center for Writing and the Environment. If creativity and the environment are the least bit interesting or important to you, their blog needs to be on your reading list.

Reading Heather’s blog post yesterday inspired the post I wrote here yesterday on grief, and it’s still weaving its way in and around and through my grey matter.  One of the persistent wonderings I’ve had since reading Heather’s essay about time and creativity and memory was around the possibility of being able to feel time as we’re moving through it.  As a former swimmer, I love the feel of being in water and how the texture of water changes.  Swimming in lakes in New England in the springtime, on a sunny day, the top foot or so of the water can be warm, and sometimes even feels thick in its warmth.  But if you go vertical, you find that there is a very cold, dark, sharp layer of water below.  At least that’s how it feels to me.

It occurred to me last night that music is one way that I feel myself swimming through time.  I love all different kinds of music, which is probably apparent if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, or if I’ve imposed one of my CD mixes on you.  My music appreciation has a whole new gear since my wife PW started working at this church a couple of years ago.  For most of the year, except the summertime, some grouping of singers and musicians from Emmanuel Music provides a couple of musical offerings every Sunday.  For me, this means that nearly every Sunday, I have a goosebump experience.

The title of today’s post comes from Michael Beattie’s always-evocative program notes for today’s anthem, Handel’s Chandos Anthem 7, “My Song Shall Be Alway.”  So picture this.  I usually sit in the third row of the church, just to the right of the center aisle.  I like being this close because if I’m really quiet in my head, and if no one is talking to me, I can hear sharp inhales and exhales of the musicians, I can hear the keys being pressed on the oboe, plus all the wonderful sounds of the instruments and voices blending together.  Anyway, today I was sitting there, and while I usually try not to distract myself by looking at the bulletin during the music, sometimes I can’t help it.  And there was some point during the lovely soprano solo today when I wanted to see how the program notes described it.  I found the weaving together of the soprano’s voice and the oboe, and Michael’s dancy conducting, to be particularly time-swimmy.  So I looked down at the notes, and I just as I was reading this line “the soprano sings an intimate and gracious air punctuated by surprising unison choral outbursts,” I was enveloped in one such surprising “choral outburst” and waves of goosebumps shot up my spine and engulfed my head.

I feel unbelievably lucky to hear extraordinary live music on such a regular basis, and even when the music itself doesn’t bring goosebumps, often just watching and hearing how the ensemble, conductor and chorus are working together will result in goosebumps.  Even when I’m just not feeling the music on a particular day, the luxury of watching the ensemble, conductor and chorus swim through time is inviting in and of itself, and the next thing I know, I’m doing a figurative cannonball into the pool and I’m in there with them.

Finally, completing the kick-butt church day today (“kick-butt” is a high compliment in my family of origin), one of our newer parishioners, the Rt. Rev. J. Clark Grew, took the tricky pitch of the virulently anti-Semitic gospel reading for today and basically hit it over the Green Monster onto the Mass Pike.  I love hearing really great preaching and teaching on a reliable basis.  Another reason I love sitting up in the front is because when a particularly good sermon — like today’s — is concluded, I usually hear at least one whispered “Wow” coming from behind me.  Today there were several such murmurs.

That’s it for my first Shout-out Sunday.  Since it’s been such a Heavenly Day, I’ll let Patty Griffin take us out with that very song:

“If I hadn’t come, I would never have known how important it was to be here”

Isn’t that just so IT? So much of what matters in life, so much of the meaning OF life, flows from the act of showing up. Not necessarily because you think you’ll have a great time, or that you’ll even get anything out of whatever the IT is. Maybe you KNOW you’ll have a terrible time. Maybe you’ll never know how important it was to other people that you showed up. If you’re lucky, you get to know how important it is to other people, and if you’re REALLY lucky, you get to have a sense, maybe only a glimmer, or maybe a huge cascading fireworks of an AHA!, of how important it is to YOU that you were there, wherever IT is, bringing your particular you-ness to an event, a day, a weekend, even to a fleeting moment.

A lot of people showed up this weekend for SweetP’s institution as the 12th rector of her parish – the first woman and the first openly queer person to be chosen for this position by this parish. Some people traveled great distances. Some came with a lot of baggage (of various kinds.) Some brought only themselves and whatever they could fit in their pockets or purses. Some came with babies. Some came with conditions (physical, philosophical, emotional, psychic, etc.) that required them to make enormous, even exhausting, efforts to be there. Some were dressed to the nines. Some wore costumes. Some wore whatever they usually wear. Some sang along. Some didn’t. Many of us wept, some of us sobbed, some of us giggled uncontrollably, some of us were still, solid, and strong, and some of us were the emotional equivalent of a clown car, veering and lurching wildly among all sorts of states. Some of us were dressed as dragons. Yes, Internet, there be dragons, even — and maybe especially — in church.

The title of this post is something my sister-in-law said to me after we had processed to the back of the church during the final hymn of “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” I think she exclaimed this as she hugged me shortly after I had come completely unglued when I hugged my brother. Poor guy, there I was, hugging him, and as I whispered into his ear the words, “Thank you SO much for being here today,” I was completely overcome with body-wracking sobs. I buried my face into his shoulder and, because I wear glasses, it felt a lot like I was smashing my face up against a window. Picture the sobbing guard at the gates of the Emerald City, with tears fire-hosing out of his eyes, but have him pressed up against a pane of glass. That’s the scene. Oh, plus, somewhere in there, I’m pretty sure my brother was holding me up. I bet I outweigh him, but he’s essentially all muscle, so I think it all worked out. I haven’t heard that he’s being treated for a hernia, so I’m assuming he’s okay.

The whole weekend, the day on Sunday, the ceremony itself, they were all like this weird combination of a wedding AND a funeral. All sorts of people doing the miracle of showing up, and lots of SweetP’s favorites: music, readings, flowers.

The church looked like it was decked out for a wedding, with red tulips and gerber daisies and other flowers everywhere. There were huge beeswax candles at the ends of every 3th or 4th pew. The place smelled so intensely of beeswax that I could have sworn that there was incense burning.

Many gifts were exchanged. The night before, at the big family dinner we hosted for 18 of us crammed into the renovation project that we call home, SweetP opened some cards and gifts from the extended family. I had been wracking my brain trying to think of something significant that the girls and I could give her. In a phone conversation earlier in the week with my eldest brother (the same one whose suit suffered water damage from my sobbing episode detailed in the previous paragraph), he was telling me about a book I had first heard about a few weeks ago. He said that the first time he looked at it, he didn’t move for 2 hours as he pored over it. I knew it would be the perfect gift for SweetP for a whole bunch of reasons. So this is what the girls and I gave her:

Now she’ll NEVER get any work done! The Red Book is every bit as stunning as I expected it to be, and every bit as perfect as I hoped it would be.

But I digress. Back to the ceremony on Sunday. The last part of the gift exchange in A Celebration of New Ministry involves the priest giving gifts to her family. Before we went up to receive our gifts, I asked the girls if they’d be willing to huddle up and all put our hands in the center and do a cheer, like a team does before it takes to the court or the field. They nixed that, but they did agree to huddle up after SweetP presented her gifts to us, which was really all I wanted in the first place. I’m sneaky like that.

Several people came up to me afterward to tell me that this was the most intensely moving part of the service for them. Some people sought me out to say that they were especially moved by hearing and seeing the word “wife” used to refer to me. One of the small but mighty gifts of marriage equality is the witness to the power of words that a lot of people take for granted, words like “wife.” Conversely, I know that the opposition to marriage equality reflects an awareness of how powerful these words are, and betrays a deep fear of us queers having access to the power of such language. But THAT, dear Internet, is a topic for another day.

So. This family that I have, that the five of us have made together, quite simply leaves me speechless with awe, wonder, delight, and a deep abiding love that makes the very word “love” seem tiny and utterly insufficient. And this moment right here, when we all circled up, put our heads together, wiggled our toes, and laughed, I officially have no words for it. Still. Days later.

But enough about us. Here’s a hairpin turn for you. Check out the artistry of a young pastry chef who was born and raised in the parish and is now on the young adult leadership team! I had told her that SweetP’s favorite flowers are red tulips, so she created these edible tulips out of some sort of candy wrapped around jellybeans. Some of the cupcakes had the letter P written on them. Also, there were little white P’s created out of some sort of icing that were strewn across the tablecloth like confetti.

At the reception, I was approached by a man I didn’t know, who said something that made me realize that he was James Primosch, the composer who created the amazing setting of e.e. cummings’ poem “spiraling ecstatically” that SweetP chose as one of the musical offerings of the service (the EMI chorus sang it beautifully, with a bonus version offered in the morning service, for additional rehearsal purposes.) I’m not usually given to swooning or being rendered speechless by meeting new people, but I’m pretty sure I made a fool of myself when my hands involuntarily flew up to my throat and I gushed something to the effect of “Oh my gosh!!! You’re James Primosch!!! Thank you SO much for your work!!!” I don’t usually speak in exclamatory triplets, but I just couldn’t help it. Then I blurted, “I just know that [SweetP] wants to thank you” and before he could object I grabbed the poor man by the hand and dragged him across the crowded reception as though I were some sort of human cow catcher, pushing several well-wishers aside (no well-wishers were harmed in the making of this introduction.) I planted him in front of SweetP, and announced, “THIS is JAMES PRIMOSCH!!!” I sure as hell hope I didn’t also say “Ta Daaaa!!!” I’m pretty sure that stayed in my head, along with the sounds of trumpets announcing the arrival of an important guest to the ball. I was somewhat relieved to see that SweetP had a very similar response to him that I did, nearly sloshing her glass of wine onto all three of us as she struggled to free up her hands to greet him.

Speaking of spiraling ecstatically. Whoa. I need a deep breath.

Even though my reflections on the weekend continue to ripple, and our life in and with an amazing and complex parish is beginning anew, and my old job is ending, and my new job – whatever it is – is somewhere out there, this particular blog post needs to end. This song, “Rise” by Eddie Vedder, seems like a fitting song with which to honor both beginnings and endings:

P.S. Very special thanks to Duane Dale for the exceedingly generous gift of the lovely photos from the ceremony and reception that I’ve included here.

"You may think this is the end, but it’s only the beginning"

In June of 2004, just shy of turning 8, my youngest daughter GForce figured out how to ride a two-wheeler.  One morning shortly after she had mastered this skill, we went out together to walk our dog at a nearby historic home that has a parking lot around it, along with a gravelly path through the surrounding woods. GForce pedaled around in the driveway for a bit, veered off into the grass, then up onto the gravelly path.  I stood back marveling at how quickly she had gotten whatever is the bicycling equivalent of sea legs. After experimenting with the variety of different surfaces available to her, she rode back towards me and came to a screeching stop right in front of me.  I chirped, “WOW!  This is SO COOL!!”  GForce looked up at me, all beamy and happy, and then got a very serious look on her face and said, “Mom, you may think this is the end, but it’s only the beginning.”

I’ve thought a lot about that moment over the past week, first when I heard the rumor of layoffs at my company, and then again this past Monday when I found out that I was among those being discarded.  It didn’t take very long for me to feel like Monday was a kind of Emancipation Day. In fact, one night over the weekend, prior to Emancipation Day, I was awake for awhile during the wee hours and I realized that I was feeling anxious about NOT being laid off.  What if I had to stay at the company while someone else got laid off??  The prospect of that was way too much to bear, thus the insomnia.

When I woke up this morning, I had the Emmylou Harris/Patty Griffin duet “Way Beyond The Blue” echoing in my head.  What’s not to love about hearing those gals’ voices upon awakening?!  Then these cascading layers of colored ideas flew through my head, about a book I could write, about a blog I could start (DONE!), about all the amazing people I’ve known at various jobs across the country, about how I could turn my resume into a show-stopper, about what if I never have another corporate job again because I’ll figure out how to do something different, amazing, and very much me.

At lunchtime, I drove into the city to hear this week’s installment of the Bach Harpsichord Partita series at my wife’s church.  As I was sitting there, in this stunning chapel,

listening to the plinky pluck of the harpsichord, I started thinking about vibrations, about how that’s all music, or any sound is, moving the air in a certain way.  Stringed instruments have to be rubbed or struck or plucked or hammered to make noise.  And what lovely noise this music was.  And then I realized my heart was thundering in my chest.  And I looked up at the rows of female saints sculpted out of marble on the altar,

and my heart pounded louder and louder and then came this sudden Aha! that made me weep:  “I’m alive!  I. Am. Alive.  So THIS is what resurrection feels like. This is what resurrection IS: that feeling of being alive AGAIN.”

You may think this is the end, but it’s only the beginning.