Music – so-called Christian “praise” music at that – is turning out to be a spiritual lifeline of sorts these days. I did not see that one coming.
About a year ago, I announced a break from Christianity, the institution. Over that period, we attended our church a handful of times under COVID conditions – outdoors, with masks, and no singing until that brief respite in July. It wasn’t the same, duh.
During that time, my beliefs and practices have flagged even more. They are hanging by a thread. Evangelical Christianity is a scourge on our society, and I really can’t divorce myself from that culture as an Episcopalian because it is the predominant Christian culture. That’s what people see when they see Christianity these days.
Our dwindling denomination, frankly, is not generating any waves in the opposite direction; it seems invisible right now.
Meanwhile, to cope with the pandemic I took up the electric bass guitar. After three or so years of guitar lessons, I would stumble through well-known riffs but could not play entire songs. What do you do with a mediocre solo from “Sultans of Swing”?
Bass was different. It came more naturally; I liked the servant-musician aspect of it. I soon built up a repertoire and the desire to play with a band. From a limited knowledge of Christian contemporary music, I knew that it was relatively easy to play. Maybe a church band?
I watched Facebook live streams. As an Episcopalian, it was culture shock. But Episcopalians don’t do this genre. A conundrum.
After sending out some musical resumes, I got a nibble. Interestingly, it was Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach, with a large LGBT presence. They have a praise band. But they needed a keyboard player, not a bass player. So I pivoted, quickly learned MainStage and SundayKeys, and showed up for rehearsal on July 8 after 16 years at my Episcopal church.
Methodism isn’t that much of a stretch; I sang in the choir at South Avenue Methodist Church in Wilkinsburg, Pa., back in the mid-60s. At the least, it’s kept me in church – even though my beliefs are at their lowest ebb since my agnostic days. They have been subjected to deconstruction – basically, critically rethinking all core beliefs.
Don’t want to throw shade on any other congregations, but I needed a change of scenery and vibe. It is a modern, light and airy sanctuary with big screens and a professional sound system. Lots of clapping. No vestments. No wine. No lectionary or liturgy. But that’s just not important right now. Creativity is. Belonging is.
Will the Methodists give me my spiritual mojo back? I am still in que sera mode, not really worried about it. I know that Big Meaningful Moments happen when you are not trying to make them happen, or even thinking about them.
What will be, will be.