An orchestra rehearsal, pre=Easter. It's hard work. I am the conductor, and I go over details of the score with the orchestra before we start to play. Just a few details - things I think important. Then as we start to play - it isn't good. The strings sound weedy. I ask the violins to play with more confidence, and I'm feeling stressed and pushed for time. One of them, a girl who played violin for me 20 years ago, replies under her breath that "an orchestra plays better if it feels good & knows what it's doing".
I take it personally & want to say that I know what I am doing - but it occurs to me that I have so focussed on the little details that I have forgotten to communicate the big picture, the sense of the music, and no-one gets it, no-one has a feel for it.
"Shall we forget it?" I ask, not petulantly, but trying to be kind. "No," she replies; the concert will be for a charity, to help others, and we will raise lots of cash. They just want to understand in order to play better. And I need to do my job better for that to happen.
I am with Cheryl, one of the pros on "Dancing With The Stars", the US version of "Strictly Come Dancing". We are in the back streets of Paris. Now I am the learner, she is the teacher. We are enjoying every minute - and it is obvious: it feels right, I can follow her lead, she teaches well. I understand the dance, the sense of it. Learning one to one is good. This is not one person at the front of a crowd failing to communicate perfectly, this is a whole different ball game.
She does something unexpected. "What happens next?" she asks. "I do a cross step?" I reply, doing it. "Perfect!" she smiles.
Learning is so natural.
I go down a corridor, and there are the Byron Jones Big Band in a classroom. (The picture is Byron Jenkins & crew - but there are some of the same guys!) Members of the band look over at me and smile & wave as I enter. They've already started playing. There are more of them than usual.
As I look, in addition to the students Byron always has, there are young kids sitting alongside the experienced players. They are playing the same music - and because they are playing alongside experienced musicians, they are both understanding it and doing it, though it is hard for them. And then they play something simple and fun to break up the pace a bit.
A different style of learning again. And again, one that is working. A community growing in understanding and practice.
A Party, in a big swanky room (this picture is our church hall, but there you go). Everyone is together around round tables. A fabulous meal is being served. The theme is "18th Century" but there is still a jazz band playing the music. I complain when they play "All of Me" (I say - "that wasn't written till 1953!" failing of course to get the point. The lyrics of the song - "Why not take all of me?"
In the community of faith, commitment comes in many ways.
It's a party. Clare MacInnes, long standing friend and doyenne of party throwing, is in charge. I am simply there, observing the dynamic of celebration & everyone joining in. One course seemlessly becomes another as what appears to be left-over and unwanted is transformed into something remarkable and new before our eyes. She calls people out - they are notable for various reasons; some are leaving us. One or two say a few words. We celebrate all of them and give thanks. We are a community of joy.
We should have more parties.
"But Lord," I say, "parties are hard work."
"Yes," he replies, "but worth it."
* * *
Now - I get what all this is about. I get how we learn and worship in different ways. I get how I need to keep the vision of the work of our community alive, and not just the detail, or the detail can become oppressive and lifeless without the vision to drive it. I get how celebration and thanksgiving and being a family together with joy - both in our worship and at play - needs to be reclaimed at times. We need more parties.
I don't record this for people to analyse (though feel free - I may even publish the comments that really help!) but to remind myself of this night. Four times have I woken up thinking - Oh, I see, right. That matters. I must hold on to that. And here is a place and a way to remember and to make it hard to forget. And to come back to so that I can continue to think and pray.