Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update on the Messiah Challenge

It's no secret that The Church Messiah is facing a financial challenge. After a few years of balanced budgets we saw our income from givings plummet (mostly, according to our analysis, because of the hit the economy took) in 2010. We started a Stewardship Campaign in response, but it was delayed by several factors (my parental leave, a general loss of momentum in summer, and some parish deaths). With few cash reserves to rely on, we started to owe money to the Diocese--now the Diocese is understandably anxious. We had a meeting last night with some reps from the Accounts Receivable Committee and Bishop Yu. It went very well, and I have to say that we were encouraged. There is work to do, for sure, but it is "do-able." The biggest thing we have going for us at the moment is that we are, in fact, growing. If we can sustain this growth for the next few years we'll be fine. But this transitional period of adjustment is difficult.

I just want to say that I am very proud of my leadership team at the church. The Wardens, finance committee, and others have really been pulling together. A plan is beginning to take shape that gives me a tremendous sense of relief. I'm finally feeling like we have a handle on this thing. Whew!

Interestingly, at one point in the meeting I felt a very powerful feeling of affectionate and love for my little church. I'm sure all pastors feel this. It's perhaps the best part of parish ministry--sweet to taste.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blanquette de homard

When it comes to lobster, I'm normally a purest: boiling water with some salt (perhaps even sea water), melted butter on the side, lots of paper towels and newspaper. But I decided to try something different this time:

Blanquette de Homard

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

8 oz.* haricots verts (skinny French green beans)
12 pearl onions
6 tbps/75g butter, softened
pinch of sugar
2 2-lb/900g lobsters*
1 shallot, peeled and sliced very thin
1 leek, white part only, washed and sliced very thin
1/4 cup/56 ml white wine
1 cup/225 ml light chicken stock or broth
2 cups/450 ml heavy cream
white pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch of fresh chives, chopped small (that's fresh--not that freeze-dried garbage, okay?)
a few sprigs of flat parsely or chervil, for garnish

large pot
large bowl, filled with ice water
paring knife
small saucepan
big-ass knife, with a heavy-duty blade
wide sautour (a large saute pan with perpendicular edges) with lid, or with foil to cover
wood spoon
tongs or slotted spoon
warmed serving platter

First, the haricots verts. In the large pot, bring 4 cups/900 ml of water to a rolling boil. Add a large pinch of salt. Cook the beans until tender, but still bright green and slightly crunchy, about 7 minutes. Do not add the beans to the water until the water is roiling!! if your beans look army-green colored and limp, you've screwed up. Do it again. When the beans are properly cooked, remove from the boiling water and plunge them immediately into the ice water to shock them and arrest the cooking. When cooled, set them aside.

Okay. Take a breath. Relax. Next, the pearl onions. Peeling these little ****ers is a pain, I know. Just get it over with. When peeled, place the pearl onions and 2 tablespoons/28g of the butter, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar in the small saucepan and cover with water. The onions should peek out above the surface. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until all the water evaporates. make sure the onions don't take on any color. That would be bad. if they look like they're starting to get brown, or you think that you need to add a little more water, do it. Just make sure you don't cook them too much; you do not want mush. You want tender, distinctive little onions that have retained their shape but are cooked through. Remove from the heat an set aside.

(Some delicate people like to "kill" the lobster bofer cutting it up, by putting the tip of the knife between its eyes and cutting open the head lengthwise. You can do it that way, but it's really not that much help; the lobster is still going to move long after it's dead.)

All right. That's done. Here comes the ugly part. You might need a drink for this: Cut the still wriggling, flopping, and protesting lobsters' tails into 4 pieces each, crunching right through the shells and leaving the meat intact. Don't worry. Lobsters are essentially big ****ing bugs; they're too stupid to know they're dead. And if it makes you feel any better, they do much worse things to one another. Tear off the claws and crack them, meaning give them a good wallop on top, behind the hinge of the claws with the heel of your knife. Hopefully you're using an impressive hunk of German steel so you're not going to screw up the blade. When the blade goes in, cutting through the shell but not the meat, you can wobble or rock the blade a little, prying open a fissure in the shell with a resounding CRACK! Reserve the unused parts of the lobster--the knuckles and the heads. That's gold, baby. Freeze them and use them some other time for lobster stock or lobster butter or bisque.

In the wide sautoir, and over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons/28g of the butter until foaming and hot (but not brown) and add the shallot and leek. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with its lid or foil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and crank up the heat again, deglazing by adding the white wine and scraping up all the good stuff from the bottom of the pan. When the white wine has nearly cooked away, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Add the heavy cream, reduce heat again, and simmer. Add the lobster claws and tail pieces. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes over low heat. Remove the cover and throw in the precooked pearl onions and haricots verts. Add white pepper to taste. Simmer for another 2 minutes with the lid off.

Remove the lobster pieces and the vegetables from the pot and arrange artfully on the warmed platter. Quickly fire up the heat to maximum, bringing the sauce to a boil. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons/28 g of butter, the lemon juice, and your no doubt impeccably chopped chives. Adjust the seasoning. Hopefully the sauce the will be reasonably thick (but not gluey--just enough to coast the lobster). Pour it over the lobster and vegetables and garnish with parsley or chervil.

Tay's Notes
Yep, this is is delicious. It goes well with pasta on the side, and crusty bread for all that sauce.
* The cookbook actually calls for "2.5 lb./225g" of green beans. Obviously, 225grams is nowhere near 2.5 pounds! So I think the metric here is correct.
** You can substitute 3 smaller lobsters for the 2 big ones.


Sermon - Lent 3 2011

Here is my sermon from this past Sunday. I felt it important to preach about Japan. I liked out this sermon turned out, but I think the content was better than my delivery. Ah, well! Here are the texts for Lent 3 A: hard to escape themes around recognition and the presence of God.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lapin aux Olives

One of the the things I do to relieve stress is cook. We had a friend who is currently living in Spain over, so I gave this receipt from Anthony a shot. I've been wanting to cook rabbit for a while, and wasn't really happy with most of the recipes I've found online. This one is much better. Compared to most of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles recipes, this one is relatively straightforward.

Lapin aux Olives

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

4 Rabbit Legs *
1 Small onion, coarsely chopped
1 Small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 Celery rib, coarsely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
2 Bay leaves
2 Sprigs of thyme, plus
1 Sprig of thyme, leaves only, finely chopped
1 Sprig of rosemary, plus
1 Sprig of rosemary, leaves, only finely chopped
1 Sprig of flat parsley, plus
1 Sprig of flat parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1 Tbsp/14g whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups/340ml White wine (1/2 bottle)
Salt and pepper
1/4 Cup/56g Flour, for dredging, plus
1 Tbs/14g Flour, for sauce
2 Tbsp/28ml Olive oil
1 Tbsp/14g Butter
1 Tbsp/14g Tomato paste
1/4 Cup/56ml Red wine vinegar
2 Cups/450ml Chicken stock
1/4 lbs./112 g Picholine olives, pitted (or a mix of red and green unstuffed, pitted)

Large mixing bowl
Dutch oven or other heavy, large pot
Wooden spoon
Serving Platter

Serves 4

Prep the bunny
In the large mixing bowl, combine the rabbit legs, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, whole sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and parsley, the peppercorns, and the wine. Let marinate for 2 hours.

Cook the bunny
Drain the marinade and reserve the liquid and the vegetables separately. Pat the legs dry and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the legs in 1/4 Cup of the flour. Heat the olive oil over high heat in the Dutch oven and, once the oil is hot, add the butter.** Brown the legs on both sides until they are dark golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the legs from the pot and set aside.

Add the vegetables from the marinade to the pot and cook over high heat until they are browned and caramelized. Stir in the tomato paste and the remaining tablespoon/14g of flour and mix well with the wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute, then stir in the vinegar and the reserved marinade liquid. Cook over the high heat until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the rabbit legs and reduce to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender. Remove the legs and set aside.

Finish and serve
Strain the cooking liquid and return it to the pot. Return the legs to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the olives and the chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper, and serve on the platter.

Tay's Notes
* or one whole rabbit, organs removed, chopped up. If you go the whole-bunny route, beware of bones.
** On the advice of my butcher I added some lardons of bacon, about 1/2 cup worth at this stage and rendered the fat after that. Thus the rabbit was seared in olive oil, butter, and bacon fat!
*** Including the marinading, this recipe takes about four hours, plan accordingly.

A note about sourcing rabbits in southern Ontario. The butcher told me that there is really only one supplier of rabbits to the grocery stores and butchers down here. There are no large rabbit farms, there is no money in it. However, farmers like to give their kids a few rabbits to raise as a way to teach them the basics of animal husbandry. People also raise them personally for meat, of course. So this rabbit processing company does a big round-up a few time a month when anyone can come by and sell their rabbits. Mostly, I'm told, these rabbits are actually being raised by Mennonites!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Return of the Cold

For many weeks I have been nursing a minor cold. It hasn't caused me too much grief, and Dayquil and other meds. have kept me from missing much work, but when I went on retreat last week the cold pretty much resolved completely. Something about all that rest and healthy living gave my body what it needed to finally defeat that persistent cold.

Alas, Tuesday night I was up late working on church stuff (as I have been a lot, lately) and didn't get as much sleep as I need. Sure enough, Wednesday I started to feel the cold coming back. I tried to fight it by going to bed early with half a dose of Nightquil, but my sleep was fitful at best. Ideally, I would have just stayed in bed this morning, but someone had to be at the church to meet a technician from Bell to fix the phone lines. Of course, the tech hasn't showed up, yet, so I went ahead and spent the morning doing sermon prep.

All these are first-order observations. Not very interesting, really. But then I flash to something Mary Gates used to say. She said that colds are a somatic expression of depression. I don't think I'm depressed, but I do carry around a significant amount of suppressed sadness and anxiety. Just yesterday I almost cried when talking about a departed member of our church. The emotion surprised me, obviously there is some unresolved stuff there. No doubt I would be healthier, and perhaps cold-free, if I could unpack some of this baggage.

The problem is that this is such a critical time in my parish's life that I have a hard time letting go of the tiller. Besides the Stewardship campaign, I am in the middle of Holy Week planning. There is also a sermon and bible study for this weekend to prepare. And leaflets. The leaflet for Sunday must be printed before tomorrow afternoon so that the volunteers have something to fold.

Did I mention that today I have an appointment to take a parishioner for her elderly Driver's License re-examination/renewal or that a tire on my car is flat and needs to be replaced with a spare and dropped off for repair?

I'm not complaining, I'm just explaining why my cold hasn't gone away. As busy as I sound, many of my parishioners have lives that are even busier. I know people who juggle incredibly stressful jobs, lots of kids, and multiple volunteer commitments. I have no idea how they do it.

The pastoral and homiletical challenge posed by this epidemic of stress in my community is profound. What is the word of Torah spoken on the street corner to those rushing by? One thinks of Jesus, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Lk 11.41b-42).

Really, Lord? Didn't you also command us to "Go, and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28.19) and "feed my sheep" (John 21.17)? Discipleship, not to mention a call to apostolic leadership in ordained ministry, seems to involve making an attempt to inaugurate God's new kingdom here-and-now. I am trying my best to make my church a place of love and growth, and that requires working phone lines, among other things!

Perhaps the monastery has some things to teach us. The absolute nature of the commitment to a Benedictine organization of time means that prayer takes priority over work automatically. You simply must go to the church whenever the bell rings. Five times a day you go. Does that compromise one's ability to get "stuff done"? Of course it does. Yet everything that must happen does happen. There are still many hours to work in the day, and everyone goes off to their cells or offices to do it.

Unlike in a monastery, parochial ministry seems far more burdened with a Martha-esque urgency. I have people literally begging for my attention and help. And I'll be damned if I'm the last Rector of this historic church!

In a monastery one has a community of peers. I only see most of my community on Sunday--through the week I do most of my work alone or one-on-one. The isolation of pastoral ministry in small parishes is a well-documented problem. I have well meaning parishioners offer their pastoral support all the time, but it would be highly problematic for me unburden myself to any of them. Besides the obvious confidentiality issues, it would be unfair for me to develop special intimacy with any one in particular, a recipe for discord and division. Nope, for that I need peers. As much as I am ambivalent about clericalism, it does create a culture that feels comfortable and supportive. When I go to a "clericus" meeting or a Diocesan Committee I can speak in short-hand code that immediately elicits "me too" sympathy and good advice. Nothing that I am describing here is unique to me, I think all of my colleagues have been in a similar position with a similar spiritual problem.

At their best these encounters bring brief relief, rest, and reassurance. Perhaps some insight comes, as well. Yet this Martha-Mary paradox requires transformation, not accommodation. "Venting" make you feel better, temporarily, but it doesn't usually lead to the kind of sustained change or conversion that is actually the mark of the Holy Spirit's activity. For that, something else is required.

I suspect the answer may dwell in the hearts of my parishioners. If I can infect them with the Gospel... If I can make them Jesus followers... If I can show them how to build God's Kingdom... How would that change the character of priestly ministry in this parish? I try--I try very hard to do this.

For the moment I have no magic bullet to offer, just faithfulness, craft, and love. Will that be enough?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holy Week Planning 2011

Today I had a meeting with the musician who will be sharing his gifts with Messiah from Palm Sunday, through Holy Week, and for the first several Sundays of Eastertide: Simon Waegemaekers. Simon is a pro, and I am especially appreciating how good he is working with the choir (he has been rehearsing the choir for the past few weeks in anticipation of the Holy Week rigours). Running a choir is a fine art, especially church choirs, especially especially volunteer church choirs. But to paraphrase a psalm, singing together in harmony is like fine oil running down the beard.

Today we had a meeting (along with my student, Nancy) to plan out more detail for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Great Vigil, and Easter Sunday. It's a monumental amount of work to prepare and plan these services, and much of it has actually already been done. Today we finalized the scripture lessons for those days as well as picked out much of the music.

Last year's Holy Week was epic. Really, some of the finest liturgy I have ever offered-up, anywhere. I think that many of my colleagues would be amazed at what we were able to accomplish, worship-wise, in our small parish. Eric and I worked out a lot of stuff and then brought in more and more people to contribute to that vision. But it didn't take vast sums of money or hired-gun-musicians or any of that stuff. It just took passionate people, two principal leaders, and lots of thought.

This year Simon, Nancy, and I started with last year, and then started tweaking and changing things. I put sheets of flip chart paper on the wall with notes about the various services: date/time, lessons, prayers, configuration of space, music, etc. These sheets are going to live on my walls for the next several weeks. They look fairly neat now, but will be a mess by the time Holy Week actually comes!

So this is starting to make Lent a little less Lent-ish...


Monday, March 21, 2011

Sermon - Reign of Christ 2010

I've been starting to go through the back catalog of sermons that I needed to edit, encode, and post. Naturally, I'm starting mostly with sermons that were preached by other people. Here is another one preached by my student, Nancy. The occasion was the Last Sunday of Pentecost, also known as "Reign of Christ Sunday." It also happens to be the Patronal Festival of Church of The Messiah (in as much as we have a Patronal Festival).


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sermon - Lent 2 2011

Betsy and I met in seminary, and I've always known that she would be good preacher if she wanted to manifest that particular charism--so I was pleased that she finally took my invitation to preach at COTM this week. I think she did a marvellous job. Here is a link to the lessons for the day.

While Betsy preached and John Hill presided downstairs, I was in the Sunday School space doing church with the kids for the morning. We do this every so often--it's a good way of showing them (and the adults) how much they matter to us.

Here is a link to the leaflet in case you're curious.

PS for you techies out there. This is one of those videos where I really wished I had a "fill" light coming in from the camera's left side. I have sometimes used a video light, but it tends to really annoy my parishioners (those that have to read at the ambo, at least) so I'm afraid Betsy appears a little backlit in this video. Life and liturgy are all about compromise!


Friday, March 18, 2011

The Last Seven Seconds

I've heard of a certain kind of Buddhist retreat that lasts seven years, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes, and seven seconds. They say that all the benefit of it is realized in those last seven seconds. I'm experiencing a similar thing today as my time at Holy Cross comes to an end. Just this morning I woke up for Mattins feeling refreshed and alive to the possibilities of the last few minutes. The Office was lovely, and afterwards a spent some minutes watching the sunrise over the Hudson River from the Lesser Cloister.

The "Lesser Cloister" is a brick colonnade connecting the main guesthouse with the monastery church. It is open on the river side and forms one side of a three-walled courtyard with a big old oak tree in the middle. This Oak tree is one of the symbols of the Order of the Holy Cross--by the way, a stylized version of the Holy Cross oak appears as the cross in the stole of my green set of vestments.

Watching the river and listening to the birds, I thought about this retreat time. I slept more than I expected. When Brother Andrew saw me at lunch on Thursday he exclaimed, "Where the hell have you been?" "I asked my body what it wanted out of this retreat and it said, 'sleep.'" "Good for you!" he said.

Normally I get a great deal out of attending the Daily Office and Eucharists, but this time my body needed something else for a time. I've gotten so much rest that my cold has almost completely disappeared. This minor cold has been with me for weeks and weeks, and is no doubt a somatic manifestation of my spiritual exhaustion. So now that I am rested my body is settling into the rhythms of this place--on the last day!

This place is so powerful. If you are willing to consent, and perhaps even if you are not, it will change you. Simply watch the River for a few minutes and you will feel your soul swell. A marble slab over the door to the guesthouse reads, "Crux est Mundi Medicina." It means, "The Cross is the medicine for the world." It is true in many ways.

Hard not to fantasize about living here. Indeed, I have lived here for extended periods a couple of times. They call such people "Residents." There are two houses on the property that have been used for folks. There is also a little suite of rooms in the basement that would work for a small family. I've lived the life of a Resident and known the other Residents who have come and gone well enough to have a pretty realistic sense of what the life style entails. One of the Residents, Tony, used to talk about the "Gate Keepers" who live at the boundary between the monastery and the world. Life always thrives at the boundaries.

I think Henry would love it here. I can imagine him walking around and pulling open every drawer and cabinet to see what it contains. I think we would like the woods and the shale beach. But I think what I want him to experience most is the simple quiet of this place. It's a quiet that goes beyond mere silence or absence of noise--a quiet that goes deep to your heart.


Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Air

The air here is so much cleaner than the city air of Toronto. When you are in the city you don't notice that it's particularly polluted. Indeed, Toronto's air is much cleaner in my experience than in Manhattan or LA, but, still, when I come out to the country I am blown away by how different the air feels. It's a pleasure to breath!

So far I've mostly sleeping and praying--which is ideal for a retreat. I also took my customary walk around, like a cat, to see what has changed since my last visit. Probably the most notable difference is that they repaired the crypt chapel. For many years it had a problem with water, but that's all fixed now. It's a very pleasant space and is where we celebrated a "Contemplative" style Eucharist this morning.

It was Bede's birthday yesterday, and I am planning to take him out for dinner this week. We take our dinner-outs very, very seriously. Since I don't get a lot of "real food" on my diet, I am very much looking forward to this. I am even going to allow myself some wine while I am down here (I've given up alcohol for lent).

Otherwise, I'm settling in and relaxing into things. It feels good to be back--very natural and familiar. Sweet.


Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

Monday, March 14, 2011

Safe Harbour

I just got into Holy Cross an hour or so ago. Last night I was up late finishing the bulletin for next Sunday since it had to be done before my retreat started. This morning I picked up the rental car (Betsy's needs the "Red Barron" to be able manage Henry this week), packed, and did a few other odds and ends before starting the trek to Holy Cross. It's an eight hour drive, and I made good time despite a 45 minute wait at the border. I spent the drive listening to some music and podcasts. The Chevy Impala the rental company gave me is a nice cruiser.

On the drive I took a call that told me that a member of the Messiah community passed away. She hadn't come to a service in many years, but she spoke fondly of my predecessor and certainly considered herself a member of the church. Her family wants a church funeral, and cell phones and such make it possible for me to arrange that even as I was driving across New York state. I haven't had too many funerals to deal with at Messiah, actually, but it is a ministry that inherited churches like mine do quite well. There is a lot of wisdom and love to be found in the burial traditions of the church.

I realize that a lot of my colleagues would shun their cell phones and iPads while on retreat, and there is good reason for that. Retreat usually involves a certain amount of ascetic withdrawal. I probably will, too, for some of the next several days. But I am an extravert, and so one of my needs (much neglected in the last few weeks) is talking out loud to process my stuff. And there is a lot of stuff for me to work on this Lent.

A few weeks ago I was talking to Betsy one Sunday evening when I was overcome by emotions I had apparently been suppressing. I had a good cry as I talked about two of my mentors: Mary and Bede. I also talked about the tremendous pressures I am under and my worries and concerns about the church. Looking back over the last few months I can see some moments when I think I did some of my best work ever as a pastor. Then there are other moments when I disappointed myself. Looking forward I see both threat and opportunity. The ways things will turn out is only partially dependent on what I do--so many of the outcomes of things in parish life are outside my control.

The feeling is very, very common among my clergy friends and probably among the non-ordained leaders of our churches, too. It's a mixture of anxiety, holy hope, and desire to do the right thing. But there is also a tinge of apocalyptic dread. The metaphor people sometimes use is "making planes in the air." Imagine falling through the air trying to assemble a wing, a fuselage, an engine.

An image that has more depth, for me, comes from the world of the Aurbrey/Maturin novels. At the end of Desolation Island Captain Aubrey and his crew are in desperate shape. They can barely control their sinking ship, and they are heading further and further away from inhabited land. Jack employes all his skills and technical abilities to keep the ship afloat and attempt to navigate to land, only to experience set back after set back. Much of the crew, including the First Mate, mutiny--putting their hope in tiny boats in rough ocean. Jack and his most loyal crew are left with the stricken ship. Patrick O'Brian manages to build and build this scene. The feeling of exhaustion and fear is incredibly vivid. The way things unfold and the ship is saved is a remarkable study in how organizations turn themselves around from the brink of destruction.

Messiah is leaking money, and we are all taking our turns around the chain pumps. The rudder is partially shot away, and so we are limited in terms of the directions we can go. Landfall is no where to be seen. Somewhere in the din my watch was broken, and without knowing what time it is, all the observations we make only reduce to a partial fix. We must stop the leak. We need more time. We need to find a habour...

Holy Cross has been a safe place for me to hold up and repair for years. I have great hope that the next few days will help me regain some equillibrium.

I may post more about how it goes. I might not. Right now I'm entering into the mode just following where the wind blows...

On my mind this evening: Betsy, Henry, and my parishioners....


Location:Broadway,Esopus,United States

Sermon - Lent 1 2011

Here is Nancy (my student's) sermon from Lent 1. I thought she did a great job.

Here a link to the leaflet.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Last Epiphany

Yep, I'm definitely starting to get a handle on things, again. Slowly but surely I am catching up the pile of stuff that has been thrown my way--just in time for Ash Wednesday and Lent.

But first, a word about Sunday... Here is a link to the leaflet.

The musical group was "Infinitely More" (Allison Lynn and Gerald Flemming). They did a marvellous job--professional and beautiful. I love working with musicians that have the flexibility that comes from self-confidence merged with deep musicianship. Their style is quite a bit more contemporary than a lot of what we have done, recently, but it was very well done and offered a nice counterpoint to some of the more traditional liturgical music we have done at Messiah. I was particularly impressed with Allison's voice and Gerald's guitar skills. At one point I saw him tapping harmonics, which I believe is a fairly advanced skill. Allison was intrigued with our experience with Paperless Music, and led the congregation in a Gloria she had written using that technique.

Hymn-picking is an interesting phenomenon. Some of the musicians I've been working with can and want to pick the hymns we sing. Others have no idea how to do this. A few know how to do it, but want me to do it for them, which puzzles me. If I was a church musician and the priest asked whether I wanted to have some say about the hymns I would be leading on Sunday, I would be all over that! So I've spent a fair amount of time the last few weeks with Common Praise and other hymnals open.

The journey continues. This season of life at Messiah is definitely calling to be on my toes when it comes to church music!