My kids are both in middle school orchestras. John plays the cello and Lucy plays the saxophone. Sometimes listening to them practice fills me with pride and sometimes it’s like a subtle form of music torture as the same phrases get repeated, sometimes in tune and sometimes not, over and over again.
But it’s worth the figurative and literal headaches every year when Rosemary and I squish our way past other parent’s knees and around their toes into the overheated school auditorium for spring and winter concerts. That’s when we see our kids swept into the excitement of making a musical composition come to life. Lucy and John look as surprised as we are when they and their classmates fill the space with thundering horses, sunsets, crashing waves and pulsing city streets with their horns, strings and timpanis.
Having never been in band or an orchestra myself, I just found out how musicians who play wind instruments keep a continuous melody with no breaks to breathe. It’s called “staggered breath”. While one person takes a breath the others in the section play and the music continues.
At 12:15 am on Monday morning Stevie Clifton texted me to report that Hannah had just given birth to their third child: Amos Dae Sung Clifton-Kwon. I went to see them all the next day and even got to hold Amos. He started to cry when he was placed in my arms that smelled like other kids and different soap, but then he changed his mind and slept against my chest. I’m hopelessly in love, just like you will be when you see him.
That said, I confess that at the end of a long vestry meeting last summer when I overheard that Hannah was pregnant I panicked. Hannah does a lot to keep Grace Church rolling and is among the people I rely on most. When I gave Hannah a hug that night and said “Congratulations!” I selfishly thought “What am I going to do?!”
The answer appeared on the couch in my office this morning at 11:30am and if you’ve been at Grace Church for awhile you know her well. It was Sophia Smith. I didn’t even call Sophia, she just came loaded with a lot of questions and many more ideas about what we should do next to make sure our children and young families ministries at Grace continue and thrive. Meanwhile, other members of Grace have lined up to bring hot meals to the Clifton-Kwons as they make the transition from being a family of four to a family of five.
Staggered breath is the way of church works. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit that when one person needs to take a breath another continues to play. In a world in need of hope, a shoulder to lean on, breakfast, prayer and another chance, members of Grace Church take turns making sure that the crayons appear, the coffee is perked, the chairs are set out, the choir sings and the prayers are said.
Second and Erie Street is a place where people have been coming to get all of these things and more for an awfully long time. Thank you God, for staggered breath and for the continuous note of grace that can be found in this church any day of the week.