This week has been a trying one in our household. My daughter’s last week of school – a busy time of tearful goodbyes and unknowns and schedule changes – and looking forward to a summer vacation but knowing we are quite not there yet. A few nights ago she was desperately playing her little plastic recorder, trying to practice just one more song, retain one more memory from her beloved third grade experience. The squeeky, loud strains of “Amazing Grace” resounded throughout our home. Memories of another time I’d heard that song came back to me….
A few years ago I visited Dartmouth Meeting at Smith Neck (MA). I sat up on the facing bench, heard the message and met some wonderful folks in worship and fellowship. It was the spring end-of-year season, and a third grader from the meeting had been invited to play a hymn. Amazing Grace. On her plastic school recorder.
She stood up, took a deep breath, and began. And began again. She missed a few more notes, changed key, and started over. The congregation, folks who loved to sing – came right in on cue. And then spent the next three verses (yes, all three!) shifting, and starting over, and waiting patiently while their young accompanist tried to remember her fingerings. I thought she might cry – lots of pressure. But she made it. And the beaming pride of her grandmother, and everyone in the room, lit up the meetinghouse. It was not by any means a polished “musical” performance. But in that moment, those Friends modeled holy accompaniment in a way that has not left me. They showed up with open willing hearts, and they engaged fully in the moment with what it was time for.
In that visit I first met Christine, this little girl’s grandmother. She has since passed away after a long illness. She never stopped living in that place of Love for all of the meeting. She shone with that Love every time I met with her.
I’m in the process of writing an important membership letter. I kept trying to list specifics and needs and clarity around process. And somehow I’m only left with the sounds of “Amazing Grace” on a cheap plastic recorder – that haunt me beyond words. How do we accompany each other? How do we listen, and respond, and are clear with our concerns but also understanding of those moments when God breaks in beyond the rules and procedures we have set for ourselves?
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
How do we engage, and invite others, to fully participate in God’s song of creation that is messy, and incomplete, and far from perfect? How do we create the spaces to welcome all who have that song written on their hearts?
Christine in her beloved Apponagansett Meetinghouse. We will miss her there this year.
And for those who might want to listen – here is my (second) most favorite version of Amazing Grace – by Frank Ticheli.