For All the Saints

I love Halloween, but this year it felt very underwhelming. I just couldn’t find it in me to go all-out on a costume for the toddler. Luckily, he is full of grace and was absolutely thrilled to have store-bought ears, tail, face-paint and bow tie, because obviously kitties need bowties. He was so cute and happy. I’m glad I changed my self-expectations. Sanity first.

All Saint’s Day is today, and in truth, today has been where my preoccupation has mainly been. My thoughts are with the millions of families around the world who have lost someone to covid-19. I mourn the more than 230,000 friends, neighbors, sons, daughters, children, parents, uncles, aunts, loved ones, in the United States who have died. I think of my former organ professor, David Boe, and I think of recreation and play prophet Glenn Bannerman, both of whom died from covid-19. I think of their (other) students, families, children, friends.

Without Mr. Boe, I wouldn’t be the musician that I am today. His gentle example was a counter to my anxiety and self-doubt as a first year college student. When depression grabbed me my second year, he followed my lead in lessons, pushing me to be better but never belittling me for not doing more. With his encouragement, I started harpsichord (and later met my husband through accompanying on harpsichord 😉 ). I studied abroad in France. I memorized a Bach Trio Sonata (painful, but instructive). I had in him an example of high standards and kindness combined, something far too rare in conservatories. He was a faithful church musician, and although his role wasn’t that of spiritual advisor to me in college, I did see him as a role model of faithful and musical church leadership.

Glenn Bannerman was my mom’s professor and a founder of the Arts, Recreation, and Worship (ARW, originally ‘Annual Recreation Workshop’) conference at Montreat, NC. When my husband and I moved back from France, mum took me to ARW and I had the privilege of taking Glenn’s recreation class. A believer in play as a gift of God, he has influenced generations of church leaders I look up to and who inspire my own creative ministry. Play, recreation, creativity and delighting in God are having something of a renewal as a necessary focus in churches, seen in books like The Gift of Wonder by Christine Aroney-Sine. Glenn was there first ;-). ARW has been a really important place for me these last few years, and I am positive I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now or be who I am now if it weren’t for the inspiration and renewal I experienced playing in fellowship with Glenn and others.

Honestly, this all feels really heavy right now. This being a blog for all ages, I do think (parents and adults, this is for you) it is helpful to talk to children about your role models and people you knew growing up who cared about you. We can’t hide the reality of death from kids, but we can talk about love and resurrection and the joy people brought into our lives. We can talk about wearing masks to protect our neighbors and how Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can also reach out by making cards and calling or video chatting. Drive-by wave parties.

This is also a music blog, and the song I wanted to share this week is actually not “For All the Saints” (although I do looooooove it). Rather, our song this week is Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. I chose it because of the phrase living God, and because it is asking for help with things that we can’t do alone: “melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.” We are being melted down, and that’s not fun or without pain and difficulty. We’re in a pot and there’s a fire underneath and it’s painful and it sucks and I don’t like it right now. And to be very clear theologically: people do NOT need to die for change to happen (death isn’t the melting, our spiritual, social, and emotional baggage, systems, and constructions are melting). That part isn’t from God. We’re the ones responsible for the suffering through our selfishness and carelessness in how we conduct ourselves during a pandemic. God IS in our mourning alongside us. And God is in our loving and our caring and our growing. This is heavy, but I think it is so so sooo so important to talk honestly (and age-appropriately) with our children about God wanting life for us (and not death/punishment!) and nothing, not even death, separating us from the love of God (and, I believe, death not being able to separate US from the love we have, either). We don’t have to have all the answers for kids (or ourselves!) about death and suffering, but on that one we can rest assured.

All Saints, by Elizabeth Wang, accessed https://www.christianart.today/daily-gospel-reading/221

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Spirit of the Living God. Fall afresh on me.

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