At St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, the church where I serve, one of our themes is “Rooted in Faith”. Even before I started in August, I started thinking about what that meant. In preparation for Advent, I was thinking about Biblical readings that mention the root of Jesse or similar imagery. If you attend or serve a church that follows the Revised Common Lectionary, chances are that one of the readings was from Isaiah 11, which begins as follows:
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
An anthem that came to mind today based on that text is A Shoot Shall Come Forth by Richard Horn, which is SAB with organ accompaniment.
An SATB version can be seen and heard here:
While not the intent of the Isaiah passage, I’ve been thinking about what seeds I’m planting now. To be honest, I’ve realized that I’ve strayed a little from some of my original goals in the beginning of the program year. Especially in Advent and Christmas, it’s so easy to be very focused on preparing for all the additional events and services. Even in less intense seasons, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of being solely focused on the next service that we lose sight of the larger picture.
Despite Advent being the beginning of the liturgical year, it feels near impossible to start something new during this season. The timing is not good due to limited mental bandwidth. As a result, if I think of a new idea that might have some merit, I’ll write a note in my calendar in January to think about the idea. Or if it’s an idea about a collaboration with a colleague, planting the seed by mentioning “let’s discuss this in January”. There’s something very satisfying about thinking of an exciting project or concept and scheduling time to think about it when I have a bandwidth.
Specifically, one of my goals in August was to intentionally connect Adult Choir members with each other. Earlier in the program year, I felt as if I was gaining traction with doing that. However, as the fall progressed, I let that focus slip. My idea is 2 – 3 times per rehearsal, choir members get in small groups, talk about the piece, the text, and what it means. Those comments would form the basis of a short paragraph about the anthem that would appear in the bulletin. As a result, the congregation would have a deeper connection with the piece as well. While I’m excited about the idea, I need to spend time in January fleshing it out. I’d want to develop the same questions choir members would answer each week. I’d also need to structure rehearsals so to allow for a few minutes of group discussion. In addition, I would need to carve out time to condense choir members’ comments into a few sentences that would appear in the bulletin.
Getting back to the season, it’s ironic that Advent is a season of waiting when it’s so busy. I’m just beginning to wrestle with how to balance the intense amount of activity with the waiting and anticipation found in the season of Advent. This is where grace comes into play, for myself that things “might not be as good as I’d like them to be”, or for taking longer to get things done than expected. I also keep in mind tweaking and establishing systems. This concept comes from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. From my perspective, one of the most memorable quotes from the book is “We don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems.” When I think about that quote this month, I keep in mind that although my Lessons and Carols service is on Sunday, there are still future rehearsals, services, etc. So far I’ve been pleased about having established language and systems to talk about breath and pulse/rhythm. On the other hand, after Christmas, I’d like to establish additional systems around discussing other technical concepts such as diction.
Getting back to the Isaiah 11 text, I recently discovered a beautiful arrangement of the hymn O Day of Peace. What a seed to plant! I cannot wait to do this piece with the Adult Choir at my church!
What seeds are you planting this month? Comment below!