Do The Church Hop Part III: Thank You and Goodnight
This Sunday is my last at Maple City Chapel. On Thursday I had one last band practice and probably the best practice to date. The church just got a killer new set of electric drums; the magical Jordan bender put together the best EQ I've ever had in my ears; and I'm finally getting the guitar tone I've been digging for.
The high point however was relational. Since all the musicians split into three separate worship teams a few months ago, I've spent a lot of time playing with same musicians, getting to know their quirks, strengths, weaknesses and style. I was able to to ask something of the piano player and know exactly how he needed it described. I understood that the drummer was just trying something out and when it came to Sunday morning wouldn't use that fill he just attempted. When I poorly beat-boxed and idea for a rhythm, he picked it right up. And instead of asking the bass player to do something specific at a crucial part of a song, I decided to wait and see what he came up with–and I was rewarded with the lick he put together.
The first time I played at Maple City on the other hand was disastrous. Other than the fact that I was a fraction of the guitar player I am now, I was stylistically stunted and tried to throw in 90's pop/punk riffs (think MxPx or Blink 182). On top of all that, I hardly knew anyone–no one had enough permission in my life to give me the critical feedback I needed. Thursday night on the other hand, Michelle, who co-leads the team with me could have slapped me and said, "That strum pattern was mediocre." and I might have been able to say, "Yea you're probably right." It's not perfect, but we've built an atmosphere of encouragement, pursuit of excellence, and patience for each other as we grow as musicians and people.
These take a lot of people a long time to build. Which makes it hard to leave. At the same time, I've left behind my handprint pressed into the sidewalk. The other Sunday I caught one of my guitar students, who was playing that morning, using one of my favorite chord inversions, which I taught him.
I'm not obsessed with creative immortality. We will all be forgotten by humanity at some point. And I don't mean to overstate my own contributions or neglect that others have done the bulk of the work, but what feels right is that we are leaving having brought something to the table rather than leaving behind a mess.
It's not everyday that I get to say that I left something better than I found it.
In fact it feels a bit like a miracle. I have after all wrestled with church in the past several years. Sometimes it's a cultural difference, sometimes it's a clash of ideology, but it's mostly my fault. I am a questioner and a line pusher on good days and on bad days a bitter cynic. It's also God's fault for slapping me around by using mediums that I–in my limitless insight–consider silly to change my heart. As Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber said, the worst part about the fences we try to build is that Jesus is always on the other side of them.
But it's also your fault Maple City Chapel. Not many people know this, but I came to Goshen at a bit of a crossroads in my faith. And so a never ending thank you is in order for all the people overly patient with any complaining, hasty words, unfair assumptions, heartless criticisms, etc. etc. etc. Instead of taking the easy road and giving me the left foot of fellowship, you have been a catalyst for grace and a place of healing and rest for a skeptical ragamuffin.
I can't repay that debt. I can only hope we've been half the gift that you've been to us.
We'll be just down the street. My door is always open. I'll even buy you a cup of coffee.