Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Friday, September 27, 2013

STUFF 2013 excellence

Given my current touring schedule, it will be some time before I am in a pulpit again.  Thus, it seems a good opportunity to reprint a few pieces I've written for various publications over the past few years.  
The theme for the Winter 2009 Issue of Connect Journal was "Excellence," and my regular column is called "A View from Elsewhere."
Herewith my submission, with apologies for violations of contractual contracts etc . . .


So, I recently started a part-time position as the Clergy in Charge of an Episcopal Church near Cleveland.  We’re a small parish, only 9 years old.  As with any church, we are striving for excellence in worship, and we have our particular Episcopal understanding of what that means. 

For instance, I am hoping to have a choir some day, but we currently don’t even have a musician, so that’s a ways off.  Though I would like to see us use incense regularly, and to add torch-bearers for the Gospel procession, we have just one teenager among us.  In short, we lack the personnel to add sound, fire, and smoke to the worship experience of the congregation.

Then, last week, I distractedly listened to a phone message from someone about youth ministry, who I thought was offering to “fire the choir.”  Huh?  That’s the last thing I need!  I’m hoping to hire a choir, not get rid of them.  I listened to the message a second time, and realized I had it wrong.

Turns out, the guy’s message was that he wanted to see how things were going in my youth group, and offered to help me “acquire the fire.”  I couldn’t believe my good luck!  Here, out of the blue, was somebody who would assist me in getting my youth group of one to swing the thurible and light the gospel book.  It seemed like a program tailor-made for my situation, and they were coming to Cleveland the very next month!

I excitedly called the guy back, and after we talked about the struggles of trying to get good conversation going among the youth when there’s only one of him, I asked about the costs of their Acquire the Fire program.  He explained that the costs were minimal, and that the youth would have a life-changing experience.  “I’ll bet,” I said.  He said there really wasn’t any training that needed to be done in advance, and that it would change the dynamic in my congregation.  “I’ll bet,” I said.  He told me that there would be lots of sound, smoke, and pyro.  “I’ll bet,” I said.  (Though I’d never heard anyone use the word “pyro” when referring to worship accouterments, I found that to be an interesting way to think of incense and candles.)

I explained that I had just purchased some fantastic Benedictine incense, and asked if I should bring that along to the training.

There was a long pause . . .

Finally, the guy said that maybe I misunderstood.  Confused, I asked, “Aren’t you offering a training program for acolytes and thurifers?”  He asked me what a thurifer was.  When I explained that it’s person who carries the incense, he asked what an acolyte was.  I began to see that Acquire the Fire was something outside my experience, and thurifers and acolytes were outside his.  He said he thought maybe we wouldn’t be interested in his program after all, and I realized he was probably right.  I wished him success, and we hung up.

It was clear to both of us, I think, that we just have different notions of excellence in worship.  That was okay by me, and I went about my day, reflecting on this collect from the Book of Common Prayer . . .

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

George Baum is exactly one half of the band, Lost And Found (, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Ohio, the father of two, and the husband of one.

No comments:

Post a Comment