For the past 4 weeks I have been on sabbatical. Although I like my church job very much, indeed even thrive on it, having this much free time from the ever-recurring Sunday morning has been a tremendous gift. A little breathing space, a chance to step back and think, some time to see friends- these and more have been most welcome.
Somehow I missed the idea of resting during a sabbatical and instead am hard at work. Most mornings I have been driving 17 miles to St. Francis church in Blue Hill to practice on their fine Wilhelm organ. And on Fridays I've made the 2 1/2 hour trek to Brunswick for a lesson with my teacher Ray. The practice time has been pure bliss-although I normally practice quite a bit each week it's always with the goal of having something ready for an upcoming Sunday. For the past few years I've wanted to learn some specific new repertoire and have been frustrated in my attempts to do that. So after careful thought I decided to focus on the following: Bach's Prelude and Fugue in G Major (the most challenging piece I've ever played), Vierne's lovely, evocative Clair de Lune, and two chorale preludes by Brahms, O Welt, ich muss dich lassen and Herlich tut mich erfreuen. I have made great progress on these works but likewise have discovered that I must keep them at the top of my priority list for some time if I'm ever to perform them successfully.
Not having to play on Sunday I have taken the opportunity to attend other churches, mostly Episcopal, in the area. Last weekend a friend of Bill's was visiting and when I told him I was on sabbatical he commented Great! Then you can sleep in tomorrow! I replied that no, I was planning to go to church, and he looked baffled. So I explained that I wanted to hear my colleagues play and see what creative things other parishes were doing with liturgy. While that may be true, it is not the complete truth. I am actually going to church on my days off because I want to. I need that time of quiet, of getting away from my own concerns, of being in the spiritual presence of something greater than myself...I need to worship.
I will be "back on the bench" this week and I am ready. I have missed playing that spine-tingling postlude, registering the hymns in a way that brings out the text, setting the last note of the prelude in just the right place. And I look forward to seeing my choir, with their eager faces full of anticipation and trust.