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From the Bishop:      

In fifth grade, I started playing trumpet. This wasn’t the instrument that I chose – it was chosen for me because my aunt had an old trumpet and my mom said, “If you want to be in band, you can use this trumpet.” But even though I wanted to play the flute, the trumpet was definitely the instrument for me. I loved playing trumpet. I loved the sound, the way to make different notes with just three valves, using different mutes that produced complexity of tone. I loved to polish and clean my trumpet – especially when I received a new silver trumpet in high school. The only thing I didn’t like was carrying it to and from school because of the big hill that we lived on.

In high school I was in both band and jazz band. In jazz band we traveled to many competitions – winning the Reno Jazz Festival one year. When I look back on my experience in band, I realize that there are so many things that I continue to apply in my life, and as part of the body of Christ, that go back to being in band.

First, you can’t be a band on your own. If you play a solo instrument, that is lovely. But that isn’t a band. There needs to be a group to form a band – it can be small or large – but an agreement that you are engaging with one another and playing music with one another leads to forming a band. If you are using music, the same music is important – also the same key and the same beats per measure helps. An agreement on how fast or slow the tempo is important. In short, community is needed for a band.

Second, you can’t all play the same instrument. I mean, I love the trumpet – but a band of trumpets is one-dimensional (and can be very loud). I admit that as much as I love brass, you need more than brass to form a band. We have all heard brass quartets – but for a band, you need the saxophone, the piccolo, the clarinet, the drum, and so much more. Diversity is needed in a band.

Third, you can’t drown out others. I speak as one who plays trumpet. Trumpets know how to be loud. And if trumpeters are not careful, they will hide the beauty of the other instruments. There is nothing more gorgeous than notes from an oboe coming from seemingly nowhere to fill the air with that wistful, haunting sound. In other words, listen for the woodwinds. A variety of sounds and voices are needed in a band – especially those that are more hidden.

Fourth, harmony doesn’t mean the same note. It would be boring if every single instrument played the very same note for every song in a band’s repertoire. Our ears are tuned to hear melody, harmony, dissonance, and resolution. In a band, it is imperative that different notes are played – different rhythm patterns are introduced, and a play amongst the instruments happens. Harmony and dissonance are needed in a band.

Dear people of God, these four things are also needed in the church and in the world: Community, diversity, variety of sound and voice, harmony and dissonance. I invite you to think about your worshiping community. How are we all like a band? How can we be more intentional in these four areas?

Our composer and maestro is God – God is directing and leading us – in the music we co-create. May this spring awaken you in the beauty and grace of God. May the community in which you gather bring music in all its fullness.

+ Bishop Shelley Bryan Wee