Sacred Memory Series: Being Spiritually Formed
Jane M. Gardner, presiding evangelist
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody. -Psalm 57:7
When I was in upper elementary school, my family moved to Chicago. I had been studying piano at the St. Louis Conservatory before the move, but I knew it was going to be tough for my parents to afford lessons in Chicago. We began attending the First Chicago Community of Christ congregation, and soon after they held a fun night. My mother asked my sisters and me to play the pieces we had learned in St. Louis.
I was pretty rusty, but I somehow made it through my piece. My sisters did the same. At the end of the evening, Harriet came to Mom and offered to become our piano teacher. Mom was hesitant, worried about money. I learned later in life that Harriet told Mom not to worry and pay whatever we could afford (which wasn’t much).
Once a week, Harriet would pack a lunch and ride the metro bus to the church. We met there for lessons, using an old, beat-up, upright piano in the basement of the church. When I turned 15, Harriet suggested that I add organ lessons. This was an additional blessing to my life. Under Harriet’s watchful eye, I began to learn about church music-how to play with my feet!
But it was so much more than that. I remember the first time I played for a service. Harriet actually sat on the organ bench with me and calmly helped me register the organ and set stops, manipulated the volume, and kept me from panicking. She was beside me to assist when I needed it.
As I became more confident, she helped me sense what type of music, what volume, what registrations were called for at particular moments in worship. She considered it the musician’s highest calling to bring people into Holy Presence. We had interesting discussions about the appropriateness of playing familiar hymns as musical moments during the offering and serving of Communion. In hindsight, I appreciate that she helped me understand that musicians should not manipulate the congregation through what is played. She firmly rejected service playing as a performance. All music was offered, in her view, as a grateful response to God.
I know I was a typical moody adolescent with less than stellar practice habits; but, somehow, Harriet persevered. I am forever grateful for her influence in my life. When we completed work on Community of Christ Sings, I inscribed a copy with, “I couldn’t have done this without you,” and sent it to her in her nursing home. I learned from her niece that she sang through the book and wrote, “She gives me too much credit.” Not so. Her help went way beyond music lessons; she helped to spiritually form me.
“Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you…” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
Spend time journaling or reflecting on significant memories that have shaped your life. Allow the following questions to guide you: What memories from your life impact how you encounter and respond to the world around you today? When has sacred memory in you become a path into the future?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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