I grew up in the Methodist church; meaning that I was in church in the spiritual sense, thanks to what I learned and experienced in the two churches of my childhood (First Methodist, Franklin, PA and Inglewood Methodist, Grand Prairie, TX), and in the more literal sense, in that I was at church pretty much every week.
Participation in the music ministry was a regular thing for me; I sang in the choir, played piano occasionally, and grew up among the robed, mature women who met every Wednesday to sightread Christian anthems. It was fundamental to my growth as a musician, and I matured as an individual, thanks to the influence of women like Shirley and Stephanie Johnson and Cherie Baker.
It was a good, grounding weekly habit for me during my adolescence; one that I abandoned during my college years, but the resonance remained strong. My roots are sure, thanks to the fact that I was in church. I am grateful to my parents, for when I was drawn back to faith in my desire for a philosophical and spiritual understanding of life, the foundational truths I had learned about religion and people served me well.
As a teenager in the Methodist church, “Youth Sunday” was a yearly tradition. The teens organized the entire service. I did music throughout the year, but Youth Sunday gave us a little more freedom. Just a year or two ago, while pawing through some old scrapbooks, I found the program from Youth Sunday at Inglewood Methodist Church, circa 1981.
I was the preacher.
I can’t remember what it was – in fact, I can’t remember the experience at all. But I’ve got proof; I did it, at the age of seventeen – I preached my first sermon.
Today, I had a remarkable experience – a new one for me – and I couldn’t help but think back to that little blip on my resume:
Presented sermon for Youth Sunday, 1981
If you’d asked me back then the likelihood of me being an ordained minister at the age of 50, working vocationally as a pastor, I probably would have scoffed. I had my sights set on other things, and already the siren song of indulgence was calling my name.
But the fascinating road of life wove in and out of logic and reason, music and ministry, intelligence and academics, creativity and family, and here I am. I’ve been doing “church stuff” for over twenty years now, and ministry has been my vocation and passion almost exclusively (along with teaching those piano lessons that fill me up so well!) for the past eight years. I’ve revisited the sermon delivery gig; I’ve led worship in all sorts of venues. I’ve led teams and prayed at large gatherings. I’ve played music for funerals and weddings. Most of my work is incredibly rewarding; I get a front-row seat for legitimate, powerful life-change in people who are, like me so many years ago, in search of some answers. I have been invited into to special, sacred moments for individuals and families.
But one thing I’d never done, until today.
I got to say these words:
By the authority given me by the commonwealth of Virginia, and with the blessing of God, I now pronounce you husband and wife.
Never have I been more awestruck by the role and responsibility of the minister. Because I said so, these people are married.
It’s incredible, really.
And I’m grateful for the long arc of life, the connective spiritual tissue that ties a seventeen-year-old girl in a Methodist pulpit to a grown woman and mother on a beautiful Virginia afternoon, declaring the word of the Lord. Today was a wedding day for my friends, who are growing a marriage, and a watershed moment for me, as I grow into my self.
So be it.