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Along with playing pastor as a little girl I would also play rock star — singing around the house like I was killin’ it at a concert (and truth-be-told I may still do this on my days off…I’m just sayin’…). Music was in my household growing up. Though Dad didn’t sing, and still doesn’t, I remember him playing all these old school vinyls in his work area. Which made me wanna get a record player in my early 20’s to be cool like him and all my hipster friends. But I soon realized I was a product of Steve Jobs and found the convenience of the iPod too alluring. Mom was the church choir director, soloist extraordinaire, and had loads of sheet music lying around the house that was as easy for me to read as the Greek New Testament (note: hardest class in seminary, Greek). While I wish I could perform dynamic solos like my mother did, I can’t. Something about my aural perception that makes me unable to sing the notes in tune by myself. It’s a sad reality. But this reality hasn’t stopped me from devouring and learning about music.
Anyone who knows me knows I love, love, love music. Music is where some of my best theology comes alive. Good music is poetry. Poetry inspires me, moves me, and tells truth (usually). I am a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America but I translate that static title into Theopoet. I am/want to be a Theopoet as a minister — I want the work I do as a minister to be art. I want this art to be the kind of art that tells stories of the Holy Scripture, of God, of humanity, of the soil, and of the tension of beauty and decay we live in. Music teaches me how to become the artist I am and want to be.
I remember when I was working at Mars Hill Church in Michigan and Rob Bell and I were talking about the work we do as pastors. He told me that he sees himself first and foremost as an artist. As an artist his medium of making art is in sermons, books, videos, and speaking engagements. This conversation planted the seed to see the dynamic, artful task the minister has as she dances with the Scripture and breathes out the stories of God to the people. I want to minister in such a way that, through the Holy Spirit, I inspire an imaginative reading of the Word that compels people to follow the way of Jesus in brand-new, courageous, life-affirming ways. This is the dance with God I partake in, daily.
My peeps at West End Collegiate Church are teaching me how to become a Theopoet as I am teaching them how to love God and love others. WECC is full of artists — Broadway and opera talent; actors and actresses galore; musicians who play and sing at Carnegie, Lincoln Center, and the many other lovely smaller venues; and the plethora of peeps who are working their smaller gigs who are waiting for their break. These artists are teaching me, one of their pastors, how to become a Theopoet just by their presence. The stories they tell in their films, songs, and shows teach me how to be more creative with the Holy Story of God and God’s people.They inspire me to become a Thepoetic minister. They free me up to tell The Story differently, faithfully, but differently. Their presence beckons me to be a minister that digs deep in order to become an artist in the pulpit and in the liturgical movements on Sunday morning. Worship is becoming an hour of lived poetry for me. I bless God for WECC, identity awakening, and the movements of the Spirit’s art in worship.
“and your very flesh shall be a great poem” – Walt Whitman
What if this quote was true of the ecclesia? What if people looked at the church and instead of chastising us for being hypocrites (which we are — totally depraved baby!) people instead looked at us and said “those who call themselves Christians are living poetry”. What if we became the type of poem that rested solely in the lavisheness of God’s grace which compelled us to have an expansive knowledge of God’s love? I wonder what might happen if we became poems of God’s story?
(Picture above is from here.)