I didn’t used to get nervous leading singing. There were times before leading at Mennonite Church Canada’s Gathering 2019 when I was nervous. I was less nervous leading 6,500 youth and sponsors at the St. Louis ’99 Youth Convention than some points before leading a few hundred in Abbotsford, B.C., last month.
It’s made me wonder what’s happened, besides me getting older? Something good, I hope. I think I “care” much more deeply and I have to admit that I have grown to love our nationwide church.
Does caring come with age? Or was I so careless and carefree when I was younger? Of course, I did care back then, but it sure used to be easier. Now I cared about this body of people who gathered in Abbotsford. I cared that worship can bind us together; I cared that they all had a chance to sing their kind of song as worship; I cared that they all be stretched just a little; I cared that the new hymnal I’m working on (Voices Together) be represented well; I cared that the band rock a bit, but, more importantly, that it be good enough to lead and stay mostly out of the way; I cared that I represent my employers, Mennonite Church Manitoba and Canadian Mennonite University, well; and I totally continue to care about the fragility and beauty of our nationwide and regional church bodies.
That’s just part of the list. I’m glad I only made it now, after the event. These kinds of lists can become a crushing weight. We are told that Jesus will make our “yoke easy,” and perhaps, without Jesus, I would have packed up and went home.
The great news is that caring also meant noticing. I noticed that many people participated in worship in a whole-hearted way; I noticed that there was joy in worshipping together; I noticed tears as songs touched sacred spaces; I noticed that people were super-generous with their compliments of the music and worship; I noticed that there was incredible grace as things went wrong; I noticed there was patience as surprises pushed our worship time way over the mark on June 30; I noticed that the grace extended to the many places where our new nationwide structure struggled to organize well. This list goes on, too. So good.
I felt absolutely honoured to be invited to lead (with my fantastic Voices Together colleagues, Anneli Loepp Thiessen and Sarah Johnson). I also don’t remember feeling honoured when I was younger. This is probably also a function of care.
I have to admit, caring can feel pretty good—more vulnerable than I used to prefer to allow, but pretty good. I’d encourage you to give caring a go if you’re not a regular, especially about something like your church family across Canada or around the world. You might notice things.
Darryl Neustaedter Barg is associate director of communications for Mennonite Church Manitoba and media production coordinator for Canadian Mennonite University. He’d prefer to spend his time leading singing.
Further reading about Gathering 2019:
Holy Spirit fire and imagination
Nationwide church experiences modest surplus
Good news of Jesus in a traumatized world
‘Firestarter stories’ spark the imagination of the church
Mennonite Women dissolve national ministry
Holding growth and the past in tension
Kids make friends at Gathering 2019
The Spirit is moving our body