One thing I didn’t mention when I was writing here about my licensing service, was, well, what it was like to tell other people about it, both before and after the event. It took me a few tries to refine my answer to the question, “Great….what does that mean?” — a question that I got not only from non-Calvary members, but also from a lot of Calvary congregants as well. But I didn’t really have an answer to the follow-on question: “Great…so now, what will you do?”
The answer, for me, was and still is in many ways simply this: I will do what I have done; I will continue to listen for God’s guidance, I will continue to look for that place that Bonhoeffer describes as the place where the world’s great hunger meets my greatest gladness, and I will continue to follow the bread crumbs that God leaves for me. Well, you know we are Americans, after all. That answer didn’t satisfy very many people. They wanted me to have a plan, a set of action steps, a 5-year goal. Gosh, I wanted one of those too because that was what I was used to, comfortable with, but I chose to stand without one for a while since the way was not clear.
I was actually very proud of myself, because I didn’t have a plan. Uneasy, but pleased.
If you’ve read anything else that I’ve written here, it hasn’t escaped you that for the last couple of years, I have been locked in a searching journey that involved questions like: Why sing? What purpose does it serve? What should I sing? What meaning can there be in “secular” music, like opera? These questions are, frankly, the only reason that this blog exists. I had lots of questions, and no really good answers.
But last Saturday, in my class, Music and Social Justice, a job title came bubbling out of my mouth and it seemed comfortable and right: when it came time to introduce myself, I described myself as a “stealth missionary”.
You see, the one thing that I have known for a while is that, while I am called to do considerable work within the church community, I know that, because of the type of voice that I have, I must also be called to work outside the church community, to reach those who feel damaged by church and would never cross its portal, to reach those who might have never and might never consider church at all: to reach those people and offer them the peace of Christ under another name — beauty. I became aware of this part of my calling years ago, when, after one of our Good Friday concerts, a friend who I know to be particularly unchurched came up to me and said, “Thank you; I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear that on this day. I didn’t know how much I needed to hear something peaceful and beautiful.”
Stealth Missionary: well, really all people of faith are stealth missionaries…you hope that by the way you live your life, by the light that you hope shines clearly through you, that you will on occasion provide peace and comfort to someone who doesn’t know where to find it; that you may even get a chance to answer the question, “Why are you always so happy” or “Nothing seems to ruffle you…how do you do it?” and through an answer bring someone closer to a life of faith. And it is my hope that when I stand up to sing, I can communicate the love and peace of Christ through music. I’ve felt that call for a long time; music is far too hard a life and profession to take up lightly.
And so now, I have a name for this way of living. Stealth Missionary. Now I just have to figure out how to do it! But I think I’ll order the business cards now…