Memphis in Motion - A New Project, Part 1
I've been in a cave...
The Call, "I Still Believe"
I remember singing on stage twice as a child. The first was “Morning Has Broken,” a hymn adapted by Cat Stevens; the last The Beatles “All My Loving.” I joke about it, but somewhere after that I lost my voice, despite the occasional outburst. But I never stopped loving music. I remember going to church with my Mother, passing the collection basket with my Father, and communion. Not long after I stopped singing, I began thinking “those people sitting there do this or that, and yet they still go to church” in a perfectly teenaged judgmental way. Then I became one of “those people” and stopped going to church. I still can’t sing, but music is in my head all day. I try to live a better life and after a couple of decades I rediscovered faith in the Episcopal Church. It’s a faith I wish I had when I lost my Father, my brother, and my “brothers,” but found in time to deal with my Mother’s death and my own close call a week later - and my recovery. When I hear country music, Jimmy Buffet, and old rock ‘n roll (and the blues classics it’s derived from) I think of them. I drafted Yazoo’s “Only You” on the way to my Mother’s funeral (“all I needed was the love you gave me”) for her memory. Whenever I talk about rediscovering faith, I talk about the band The Call, fronted by the late Michael Been. Been opened 1986’s “I Still Believe” with "I've been in a cave" and then gave us hope with the line “only a spark to light my way” that sums up those intervening years.
I came to Memphis a practicing Episcopalian and a music lover. This is the first place I ever lived that I completely chose for myself on its merits. One of them was a rich music tradition that showed itself to me the first time I visited. The second was the people, warm and welcoming. Another was the unique places and opportunity I saw here. The music tradition is still a living growing story, though too often ignored. Taking advantage of opportunities here has led to me meeting more and more of those warm and welcoming people, hospitality I try to pass on to residents newer than myself and those in need. One of those who gave me a warm welcome was Reverend Richard Lawson, our former Rector at Grace-St Luke’s Episcopal Church. In the last month I was given the unique chance of hosting a forum he began, our Lenten Music Series, or music in faith.
When Richard left, church leadership and clergy left the calendar of forums in place until we have a new Rector. I was sitting at one of our Sunday breakfasts - $5 for a plate full of goodness and a great time to get to know or catch up with fellow parishioners - when the music series came up. One of the ladies who welcomed me here, Edith Heller, mentioned a musician I follow who she knows well as a great example of the topic. Then the group looked at me, since I’m always talking about music and they knew about my volunteer work with a local festival, and said “any other ideas?” Of course I had a few ideas and agreed with Edith’s pick. In ensuing weeks, we worked out one of our temporary priests had an idea, and so I was left with one slot for a recommendation and had two candidates. I actually hoped two slots would open because both of the musicians I had in mind have great stories, tell them well with their music, and are examples of faith. The Senior Warden (vestry leader) Holley McGehee then looked at me and asked if I would be comfortable introducing the musicians. Well, I said, “it’s the Rector’s Forum, shouldn’t it be one of the priests?” and left it at that. John Burruss, the temp priest, is from Memphis, has a great presence, and plays some music - perfect fit for the role in the absence of a rector. It’s been nearly five years since I stood in front of a room and presented anything, and I was experienced at that job. I don’t feel comfortable with speaking at church - I’m still a rookie at this. A few weeks later we got word that John was on the move to his new calling as a Rector and they asked me again.