My dear friends,
As you continue reading, you may begin to think that surely, I am using this space here to recruit for the Music Ministry. After all, I myself am a product of our Children’s and Youth Choirs and handbells and have sung in the Chancel Choir since 8th grade (we won’t discuss how long that has been…) In addition, I have directed Children’s Choirs, Youth Choirs, handbells and served as Interim Music Director a time or two. But, no, this is not a recruitment piece… unless it is working…
“A Place in the Choir” is a folk song written by Bill Staines, an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, though so many Irish performers have embraced it, that some now consider it an Irish folk song. (Hey, Altar Egos–I think this is one to add to your songbooks!) [Celtic Thunder Heritage - "A Place in the Choir"] The song has been summarized as a light-hearted way of looking at the wide range of sounds that God’s creatures make. Whether big or small, they all have a voice and they all have an important role in our world. The verses include little birds and owls, ducks and otters, dogs and cats, honey bees humming, crickets fiddling, and on and on. There is singing in the night and day and apparently, “It’s a simple song.” The lyrics for the chorus are:
“All God’s creatures got a place in the choir,
Some sing low and some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire,
Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got now.”
The point is that no matter who they are and what sound they make, those animals are making music together. As individuals, they each contribute in their unique way, becoming an ensemble that lives life together.
We are our own ensemble living life together at Embry Hills United Methodist Church. From Sunday to Sunday and the days in between, we live life together. We laugh together and we mourn together. We sing together and pray together (and, when the time is just right, those happen simultaneously). This living happens within these walls, within this neighborhood, and beyond–just ask the Youth who have traveled together and the adults who are making plans to do the same–and, the best part, is that it is so much richer when we share it with new folks.
My family moved from Westfield, NJ, during the summer before I started 1st grade, at Evansdale Elementary, when my father, Jim Deichert, took a job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. Friends invited us to their church and then convinced my mom, Riley, to join the Chancel Choir after hearing her sing from the pews. A few years later, my brother, Christian, went through the preschool here, just as my children, Michael and Ashleigh would later. (See how lasting a sincere invitation can be?!?) You played an important part in raising me and then you turned around and did so again with my children. Most of my longest, closest friendships are thanks to this church–from my childhood, Youth years, young adulthood, and [ahem] after that, including so many of the current and previous staff members. This community has supported me during many, many life transitions–both the most difficult and the most joyful. Hopefully, I have done the same for some of you because, after all, that is what a community is all about.
In this EHUMC ensemble, there are some whose voices we no longer can hear, there are some who are singing from a distance, some who have sung many verses, and some who have just joined in on the tune, but the song is the same: loving one another as we have been loved. The scripture passage included in Sunday’s worship was John 15:9-15 and is certainly not the only time Jesus shares this commandment. He also asks us to abide in his love, just as he keeps God’s commandment and abides in God’s love (verses 9-10). Jesus goes on to talk about friendship and joy because living out this commandment is more meaningful and makes the most sense when we give it our best try together.
Almost exactly 24 years ago, I started on Staff here full-time. My previous job had kept me away from my infant son and I was thankful for this new opportunity as the Church Secretary. Then you took a chance on me and I moved into the Witness & Outreach role with its mission-mindedness and hospitality focus, and then Youth Ministry, Youth and part of Children’s Ministry, and, finally, Youth and Serve Team. You have given me opportunities to love our neighbors far beyond what one person could do alone and with incredible organizations such as the Atlanta Community Food Bank through Snax Sax, the American Red Cross, LaAmistad, and NETWorks–all who strive to do good in the world. You have allowed me the luxury of working alongside my own kids and leading beside both of my parents for a time. And, you have trusted me with your children and Youth through the years. There has been no greater privilege. Truly. Now it’s time for me to do my part in loving new neighbors in a new place. It’s a bit fill-in-the-blank right now, but I will find my place and I will take what I have learned here from you.
For years, I have quoted one of my Furman professors and highly esteemed choral director, Dr. Bing Vick, to remind myself, and some of you, that when life shifts in new directions, you “Adjust. Adapt. Accept.” Well, here we are, doing just that. Thank you for the love and support and excitement you have shared with Hugh and with me as we start a new adventure together. It wasn’t an easy decision to move away from our family, our friends, and our communities of faith. But we know the song pretty well now–that one about loving one another as God has loved us–and while the tempo may be different in Texas, we will keep singing from a distance.
As for Embry Hills, you will keep the music playing here, too. It is long-established, after all, and whether you sing high or you sing low or you clap your hands or paws or anything you got, you have a voice in this choir and a role to play in how this community loves. So, find your place and sing at the top of your lungs because others need to feel the love you have to give and you feel the need to give it. It’s a simple song, but it is breathtaking. And it is God’s favorite tune.
May you be safe, be kind, be full of laughter, and be your best YOU–the “you” that God knows and loves so well.
With an abundance of love and gratitude,