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Music and the Kingdom


Published in the issue.

Jeannine Otis at the 2018 Diocesan Convention, holding her Bishop’s Cross citation.

When I think of Thy Kingdom Come with regard to my work as a music minister, my mind goes to the entire phrase “thy Kingdom come, they will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  Could the inspiration for “heaven on Earth” be found somewhere in the phrase “Beloved Community”—which is, after all, a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of our fellow human beings?

In these times of division and unrest, we must work even harder to build and enhance beloved community in our worship with the messages we send out both through music and the word—aspects that are hard to separate one from the other, for they have a symbiotic relationship.

The key is to find ways to illuminate the lectionary messages in an artistic/musical sense: It is up to each individual to find out what that means, as it is different in each worship setting. Being current is key too, of course; but it is also always important to honor the love and steadfast inspiration inherited from more traditional hymns/spirit songs.  For example, one of my favorite songs of praise is “O God Our Help in Ages Past.” I also love the Burleigh arrangements of traditional Negro Spirituals. I am an eclectic lover of music. Good music.

Sometimes we can find new life in our current music when we stretch ourselves to open hearts and minds even more. Excellence is an important part of the “journey”: but the way in which we sing a piece—the lilt in our voices or how we extend assistance to someone new in our community—is as important as anything.

In my work I try my best to work with these guidelines:

Radical Welcome

Active listening

Inclusivity

Respect

Love.

As I read all this, I realize that it is not a very poetic reflection. I am talking about work that continues over a long period of time, the reward of which at times is the way a song moves the spirit through a gathering. It is work that will continue, I trust, after I am gone, just as I was inspired by those who came before me.

I am speaking to a constant commitment to working towards building community using the many gifts given to us by God and the Universe. Music and art are among those gifts.

In the case of the gift of music, we honor it whenever we sing together and uplift one another with loving hearts.

I am thankful for those who have inspired me and who continue to inspire me, my mentor/ friends, my spirit collaborators, my church community—and my mother, Adrienne.

“Thy kingdom come on bended knee the passing ages pray; and faithful souls have yearned to see on Earth that kingdom’s day…”

Keep your eyes on the prize, HOLD ON.