Sunday, April 5, 2015

Holy Week and Easter 2015

I am sitting at home, reflecting on a very satisfying Holy Week and Easter Sunday. As always, I spent a lot of time at my church, Calvary Memorial of Oak Park, over the last few days. I did not myself take any pictures, but I have plenty of images and moments from the last week in my mind. A few to share with you...

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we had the annual palm parade, with all of the children's Sunday school classes marching around the Sanctuary waving palm branches during the singing of Paul Baloche's "Hosanna." From my position in the audiovisual control booth, I saw every child walk past, all looking so excited to be part of the service.

Wednesday evening was dress rehearsal night for this weekend's services. We had a full schedule, and it was a very successful evening. I felt very good about the coming services at the end of the rehearsal. It is always satisfying just to see all the musicians come together in rehearsal and get a teaser of what the services will feel like.

Thursday evening was our Maundy Thursday service, a relatively new service for Calvary (this was only our third year celebrating Maundy Thursday). Seminary student and lay worship leader Erik Johnson prepared the songs and led our time of singing, and Nate Friedrichsen, our pastor of community engagement, gave a message focusing on the two cups: our cup, the cup of God's wrath, that Jesus drank for us, so that we could drink his cup, the cup of the new covenant. As I reflected with a friend afterward, I had never thought of it that way, and the image was helpful. The Maundy Thursday service had a great "family" feel, as it should. We celebrated communion at the service, and because we only had one service for that occasion, it allowed for informal and non-curtailed mingling afterward. I found myself at Red Mango with a few friends from the young adults' group after the service!

Friday evening we had our Good Friday services. I was the worship leader for the service, guiding the congregation through a liturgy of Scripture reading, corporate singing, and songs offered by the Sanctuary Choir. Gerald Hiestand, our senior associate pastor (our equivalent of an executive pastor) gave the evening's reflection, "Acquainted with Grief." It was a service of contemplation and commemoration, and I was privileged to have that leadership role in it.

Saturday, for me, was a work day. It was the day a few of us staff are at church, very busy getting ready for the following day. The redecorating and setting up for Sunday did not take long at all though, and only heightened our excitement for Sunday.

And then there was today, Easter Sunday. With my alarm set for 5:00 AM, I woke up instead at 4:45 AM, and found myself at church by 6:00 AM. I completed my walk-through and got everything open and powered up and before long the band, choir, and orchestra arrived for our warm-up rehearsal, and then it was time to celebrate!

It was, on the whole, a very good morning at Calvary. Everyone was in a good mood, the congregational singing (of classic Easter songs both old and new) was robust, the snacks were delicious, and by the time we reached mid-morning the sun was shining, dispelling the early morning cloudiness. God was praised for his victory in Christ. The resurrection, as Senior Pastor Todd Wilson said in his sermon titled "This I Believe" from 1 Corinthians 15, is God's "authenticating signature" on the life, teaching, and death of Christ. And we celebrated that signature in joyous fashion.

Such a great week. I was so blessed to be part of it. And, by the grace of God, I did not find any of it stressful or even draining, really. All by God's grace. Soli Deo gloria.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Millennials, Technology, and Compassion

I recently wrote a piece exploring technology, compassion, and the role each -- and could -- play in my generation, the Millennial generation. It was published this morning at Thin Difference, a leadership blog/website I follow. My article is a call to action to my generation, to use the technology we have to be compassionate. Please read!

My full, updated bibliography is here, or via the link at the top of every page on this blog (mobile users, please find it in the drop-down menu). Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

America Under Construction

Last week I took a vacation to Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia. I saw a number of friends (mostly from my Wheaton days), did a few touristy things (including a concert at the Kennedy Center, something that has been on my bucket list for a while), and relaxed at my parents' vacation timeshare resort in Alexandria.

One of my activities was a visit to the United States Capitol. The Capitol dome is currently surrounded by scaffolding, the most visible element of a major restoration project.

The United States Capitol, looking southeast from the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street

The image of the Capitol dome under construction reminded me of a scene from my favorite TV show, The West Wing. Josh Lyman, the Deputy White House Chief of Staff, is meeting with a candidate for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, preparing for the Senate confirmation hearings. They are vigorously discussing race relations in the United States, and the candidate, Jeff, asks Josh to take out a dollar bill and look at the back. Josh does, and Jeff points out that the pyramid on the Great Seal is unfinished.

"The seal is meant to be unfinished," Jeff says, "because this country's meant to be unfinished. We're meant to keep doing better. We're meant to keep discussing and debating..."

What if we were to remember that more often? In these days of ideological battles, when our country seems so polarized, what if we were to remember that this grand idea called America, this grand experiment in freedom and in government by the people's representatives, is unfinished? If we did not expect it to be perfect (the word "perfect" means "complete"), would we find it all less frustrating, and perhaps double down on our efforts to work together as a nation?

Friday, January 30, 2015

On Arts Entrepreneurship

"Arts entrepreneurship" is a term that, besides being a mouthful, is probably unfamiliar to most. It is a newer concept and a newer discipline. So new, in fact, that it was not part of my liberal arts-influenced Conservatory undergraduate education, which I finished not quite four years ago. Essentially, it concerns the contemporary dynamic of being and working as a professional artist of any trade.

I do not consider myself a "practicing" artist, I consider myself anchored much more on the managerial/administrative side of things, but I certainly have more than a few friends who are "practicing" artists, and some of the concepts within arts entrepreneurship apply to me anyway given the day and age and society in which I live.

But enough from me. The reason I bring it up at all here is because I came across two pieces on the subject in my reading, and thought it was time I prove that this young professional is paying attention!

The first piece is from the current issue of The Atlantic, and traces the history of the professional artist's relationship to society at large and then analyzes the current relationship. It is a lengthy piece with quite a bit of substance on some major themes.

And the second is from the blog of the director of the arts entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University, Linda Essig. She offers a summary of the responses of her students to the prompt: "What does it mean to you to be an arts entrepreneur?" These students are just a few years younger than I, yet their thinking is different from the conversations on "life as an artist" I remember having in my undergraduate senior seminar. The field is continually changing, as I am able to see in my work for the Wheaton College Artist Series, in which I interact with a lot of younger, emerging artists, and also my conversations with current students at Wheaton College.

In any case, it is a topic I think I may need to start reading more about, as it will become continually more and more relevant to me personally and professionally.

Update January 31:
I found out that Linda Essig wrote a brief response to the essay in The Atlantic. She highlights the importance of the audience in the arts world. She writes: Artists "need to think of the audience for the arts as partners in an ongoing two-way relationship in which art is not consumed, but appreciated."