Spectator or Player

I was a little reluctant when it was time to drive an hour to the Music Hall in Kansas City.  I had seen a similar event that turned out to be a little underwhelming.  This far exceeded my expectations.  When Riverdance was first shown on PBS, I loved the rhythm, the instrumentation, the fresh vocal ensemble (Anuna) and the energy and oddly disciplined movements of the Irish Dancers.  Having seen a troop perform The Lord of the Dance to recorded music, I became a little jaded.

This troop was clearly top of the line, talented, disciplined and great performers.  They engaged the audience very effectively.  There were live instrumentalists who also performed by themselves as well as accompanying the dancers.  There were pieces added to the original performance on PBS.  While there were probably some times when recorded material was used in the mix, it was done well enough not to be apparent.  Most of it was clearly live performance.

The time at the Music Hall in Kansas City was not only spent watching what was happening on the stage.  First, we were drawn into the energy and enthusiasm of the performers.  It was as if they were taking something of each of us, drawing it in and dancing dances, singing songs, making music with it.  Before, then at intermission and afterward, there was some community building with the people sitting on either side and in front.  As usual, I was by myself when I arrived, but not for long.  Some folks had come on a bus from Sedalia, Missouri to sit on one side and in front of me.  There were inclusive conversations that put an end to “by myself.”  On the other side sat a woman whose accent triggered my question about where she was born.  She grew up in Poland about three hours away from the area I will be searching this summer to find my Mother’s birthplace.  She and her husband will be visiting there this summer the same time I will be there.  The time at the Music Hall was not spent only watching others participating in life.  We were fully alive.

This morning’s Worship Service simply did not allow anyone to remain a spectator.  It was a special day calling attention to the deaf and hard of hearing.  The Guest Speaker was moving constantly, using his hands (and whole body) to communicate as well as his voice.  He taught us some simple visual communication tools.  The entertainment value alone made the time fly by.  Added to that dimension was an absolutely clear expression of the core message of Christianity, there is no barrier remaining that is powerful enough to trump our Creator’s love of us.

This afternoon contained an hour and a half spent fully participating in life, no watching.  A few of us completed the last task in a four week small group program by spending time talking with and reading to nursing home residents.  There were pre-existing connections with the people I visited.  One had been a parishioner and neighbor.  I had done the funeral for a daughter.  Elda struggled at times to remember her family details, but she was pleasant and seemed to enjoy the time together.  The other visit was to a couple whose daughter and son-in-law plus their children were former parishioners, some of my favorite people.  Ruth and I talked at length, she knew me.  Husband Ed was around the corner bedfast with some dementia, but still able to communicate and interact.  I enjoyed the time with them.  While waiting outside afterwards to reconnect with the group, someone came by who recognized me as the pastor who had done a Grandmother’s funeral.  Soon there was a bit of a warm reunion with the family.  It was a time of full participation in life.

When that activity was done, I headed over to Carol and Eddie’s place around the corner so that Carol could help me work on the music for this summer’s tour of Northern Germany.  It was encouraging to be able to read the music well enough to be hopeful that I will actually be able to learn it in time for the tour.  It will take a great deal of work to become comfortable enough with the Spanish, Latin and German lyrics to be able to spit them out at the rate of speed necessary to the music.  That time concluded with an invitation to eat with them.  I always enjoy conversation with them.

As I have reflected back on the experiences of the last 24 hours, the interwoven roles of Spectator and Participant have added some layers of meaning for me as I continue to watch my own life unfold, seeking to choose to live rather than only watching others live.

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