When I came to Virginia-Highland Church the deacons seemed to abandon me. I didn’t really blame them. In the absence of a pastor, they had been carrying the load of the church, and they were close to burnout. My hope was that they would come back and resume their ministry after they had a chance to rest. One moved away. A couple didn’t do well with all of the changes. A couple did burn out. Three have been salt-of-the-earth, seeds around which a virtually new congregation has been born. That must be incredibly hard.
I think people who love something and are able to help the thing they love change and become something new must be the bravest people I know. Change is hard for all of us. I was just in a worship team meeting during which I had to admit that the way a song was played wasn’t wrong; it simply was different from what I am used to. My instinct said it was wrong, but, actually, I was. It was change I didn’t like, not the way the song was played. We all instinctively resist change, so finding grace to be a midwife of transformation, rather than a saboteur or resister, is an amazing gift of courage.
I nearly burst into tears in the middle of Sunday’s service. Our congregation’s most beloved member is in her mid-90s. She is an accomplished singer and was, for decades, the premier soprano in what was one of the leading choirs in the city. She still has a lovely voice and sang last year for the church’s 92nd anniversary. Today, her sight is diminished, so she struggles to read music. New songs can be a real challenge, and we were singing a piece of service music that we adapted from a contemporary Christian singer. We were using it as a liturgical piece, but the syncopation is odd, especially if you aren’t accustomed to contemporary music.
My spiritual moment came when I saw one of those deacons who was there when I arrived sitting next to her, singing the words in her ear so she could sing along. It was a beautiful image of how the Body of Christ is supposed to be, and I was grateful to be in the presence of both of those saints.
Rev. Michael Piazza