Monday, August 30, 2010

Finally - I get to a Sounds game!

When my family & I lived in Nashville before (1984-91), we attended a couple of games at Greer Stadium, home of the Nashville Sounds. And if you've read much of my "Glen Alan's San Antonio" blog, you know that during my stay in that city I was a avid fan of the S.A. Missions baseball team. The Missions are Texas League (only AA) while the Sounds are Pacific Coast League (AAA).

During August of Ought Eight I desired to take in a Sounds game or two. And the Thursday night that was the final of the month AND final home game for the Sounds, I actually tried to go. Waited TWO hours on Murfreesboro Rd. for an in-bound MTA bus; by the time one showed up, I knew it was too late to get to Greer in time. I could have walked there & arrived in much less than two hours! (FYI, that waiting-in-vain time wasn't wholly wasted; on my radio I kept switching between the station carrying the Sounds game and the one carrying the Vanderbilt Commodores opening game for the 2008 season, at Miami-Ohio).

With the move of play-by-play radio announcer Stu Paul from S.A., where he did the Missions games on KKYX-AM 680, to Nashville to do the same from the Sounds, my interest in the home-town team increased exponentially! But alas! due to my fiscal straits I felt I couldn't affort even the price of a general admission ticket. So I contented myself with listening to my ol' buddy Stu on 104.5 The Zone radio or on-line.

But praise be to the Lord! Some tiny personal GOOD came out of May's Great Flood, tied in with Eastwood Christian Church's ties to little league baseball here! (Pastor Jay is a team coach and some of the boys play.)

You see, dear reader, the flood destroyed equipment for the Jess Neely (inner-city youth baseball & football) program. AND our home-town Minor League team has been assisting in the rebuilding. Sounds management announced that advance reserved tickets for the 29 August game (final home game) would sell for $10 rather than the regular $12, with ALL proceeds going to Jess Neely! Yet another example of the WE ARE NASHVILLE response to the flood disaster!

Well, over 100 Eastwood folks purchased tickets -- including an anonymous Brother or Sister who paid for mine. "Thank you & Lord bless you!" to whoever you are!

And Sunday the 29th turned out to be a banner day in many ways for ECC(DC). Associate Pastor Michael Lehman returned from a brief return visit to Akron following his ordination on the 21st, and we recognized not one but TWO new interns assigned to us by the Vanderbilt D School. The "Pastor's Class" in Sunday School was the usual lively, throught-provoking and enjoyable discussion it almost always is, and then we choir members in the class scooted over to the Sanctuary to rehearse the Anthem, the joyful praise-prayer song "Jesu, Jesu". Following Worship we had our monthly Sunday potluck dinner in the fellowship hall. Delicious food accompanied the delightful conversation around each round table.

And to think, yours truly got to be back with my spiritual family again in the evening! A late afternoon drizzle that lasted thru the game apparently discouraged a few ECC(DC) ticket holders from arriving, but there were still plenty of us there, in Section QQ and adjoining. We had a fine line-of-sight from high up, along the line from home to first.

And what a fine game to see! The New Orleans Zephyrs got on the scoreboard with one run in top of the first. But the Sounds answered in the bottom with a Grand Slam Homerun! Brendan Katin did this to express appreciation to us fans, I suppose, for the pre-game honor of selection as 2010 Sounds Fan Favorite.

Wow, Katin! What way to say, "Thank you, you Music City fans!"

And thus a desire of mine ended in fulfillment. When my good buddy Stu Paul posted on Facebook the Montgomery Gentry song "Gone", stating that an excerpt from its chorus got played over the Greer loudspeakers whenever a Sounds hit a h.r., I replied that I was sure hoping there'd be a homer whenever I got to my first game at Greer. And here I was listening to it!

But don't go away quite yet! Katin's bottom-of-the-first homer was simply the first of TWO he slugged out of the ballpark -- and THREE total for the Sounds! Now the later two homers (in 4th and 6th innings) weren't Grand Slams, but who's counting? When your team goes into the Seventh leading 10-1, with a 16 to 2 hit and 0 to 1 error advantage to boot does it really matter that 2 of 3 homers aren't grand slams? Besides, the one Grand Slam was Sounds' fourth this year (if I remember correctly one or two were walk-off Grand Slams) and Katin's h.r. of the evening tied the team record record of seven.

I had already spoken with Steve Walls about bumming a ride after the game, and with several Eastwood folk already departed, he, his kids and I joined the exodus. But not before that ceremonial "Seventh-Inning Stretch". And to delight, Stu Paul led our singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"!

Hoo-ray, Stu! Hoo-ray, Nashville Sounds!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Music-filled Ordination of Michael

This weekend is something the Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Choir and I have been looking forward to for some considerable time. You see, Saturday afternoon our congregation ordained our young Associate Pastor Michael Lehman in a most impressive worship service. Michael, from Akron, Ohio, comes from a a family where music and singing is a major element. Indeed, his mother Julie is a choir director -- and brought her church choir with her when the entire Lehman family and a goodly representation of High St. CC(DC) journeyed from Akron for the ordination.

Michael himself studied for a degree in music, at Oberlin (famous for its music program), and intended to be a percussionist in the Cleveland Symphony. However, our good Lord had other plans and Mike sensed the call to professional ministry, and this past academic year received an MDiv. from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Back in May I posted about going to the Vandy campus for his Commencement. And to be honest and frank, Michael's ceremony surpassed my own as an M.A. degree recipient at VU in 1989.

Well, I must be honest & frank again. Only a few months ago Eastwood ordained another recent Vandy D School grad & member of our congregation. She's Emily Nourse, and I felt HER ordination service was the equal of my own. But Michael's surpassed both!

And oh, it was SO Music City! The guy put SO MUCH song and music into this celebration of his ordination!

It all commenced with Pastor Jay on bagpipes and other instrumentalists playing a prelude called "Highland Cathedral" (Roever & Korb), followed shortly afterward by the Nashville Bluegrass Band in a mini-concert -- three bluegrass-gospel songs (the Band's fiddler is ECC(DC) member Stuart Duncan). Several other musical specials spiced the service. Not one but TWO Anthems got sung by a combination of Eastwood and High Street's choirs. Julie Duemler, Eastwood's director, conducted the first, "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name" (Fettke & Johnson). Michael's mother, director of the High St. Choir, conducted the other, "Lord Here Am I" (John Ness Beck).

Between the two Anthems were several other portions of the order of service. These included Presentation of the Candidate, which involved representatives of four entities being witnesses to his gifts of ministry, as witnessed at the Disciples Divinity House, the D School (to which the previous is attached), our congregation and the Regional CC(DC). A Dr. Amy-Jill Levine represented the D School, and in her witness incorporated several musical expressions in a manner which charmed and at times amused me and others.

Eastwood's Senior Pastor Jay Hartley treated us to a fine ordination sermon, based on Jeremiah 1:4-10 and titled "Michael and his Angels". Then various standard promises were made and we had the standard Laying on of Hands. As an ordained Disciples of Christ clergy I was one of those who ascended the chancel and placed my hand on Deacon Margaret Nourse's shoulder in front of me (Pastor Jay had his on mine). Margaret's hand was on someone in front of her, who had theirs on Michael.

And glory to God! We'd heard sounds of thunder and rain outside, but while Pastor Jay was reciting the Ordination Prayer a beam of sunlight pierced a west-wall window behind me, passed over my shoulder and fell on the one being prayed for! I affirm that THIS act was an "Act of God" affirming Michael's ordination! It was to Michael as the descent of the Holy Spirit in dove form was to Jesus at His baptism. Glory to God indeed!

Michael was presented with signs (or symbols) of the office of ministry: a black academic robe, a colorful stole, beautiful ceramic chalice and paten (vessels for the Lord's Supper) and so forth. It shouldn't be a surprise that Michael as musician/singer got into the act, beyond his singing in both Anthems. His response as the Newly Ordained featured very few spoken words beyond "Thanks!", as he was clearly overcome with emotion about the whole event. After his brief, choked-up expression of gratitude, he went to a marimba, took up two sticks in each hand, and played the Malotte "Lord's Prayer". He did it beautifully, even including a little "Amazing Grace" in it (thus it was actually a medley).

Then we had the Supper. We did this in the manner we do at Eastwood on every First Sunday: singing "Eat This Bread Drink This Cup" the people walk down center aisle, partake by intinction (breaking off a piece of the loaf & dipping it in the chalice), and then form a hand-holding circle around the sanctuary while continuing to sing.

This activity, which I presume Michael had requested, made my heart full on two counts. First Sunday of this month I'd missed out on it, since I attended worship at Donelson CC(DC); so this made up for that. And due to the extra-high attendance, with all the folk from Ohio, we had to stand close together with our backs against the wall all the way around; this occurred also at our Christmas Eve service. Just as then, the situation reminded me strongly of my last Kairos Prison Ministry visit into the Briscoe Prison (Dilley, Texas); so many of us volunteers and especially so many inmates were present that when we formed our accustomed "circle" to close by singing "Surely the Presence", all our backsides were up against the walls of the prison gym! For yours truly, such events are awesome witnesses to the mighty work of God within the particular institution where they occur. Plus, ANYTHING that reminds me of my blessed times in prison doing Kairos ministry will make my heart full!

Glory to God for ALL that transpired in the ordination of Michael Lehman! He will be an outstanding leader and servant for the portion of the Church on Earth that is our denomination -- as well as for others. I expect to hear great news about Michael in the future. . . .

Monday, August 16, 2010

A wonderful weekend of marvellous music

Sometime in A.D. 2009 I discovered that Rhonda Vincent had recorded Stuart Hamblen's Gospel song "Until Then", which I'd heard recordings of by Jeff & Sheri Easter and others, and which I'd learned to play on guitar. You will know if you regularly this blog, dear reader, that yours truly is fond of Rhonda Vincent's singing. Therefore, at some point in Ought Nine I e-mailed a request that Les Butler play her recording of "Until Then" on his Solid Gospel 105 radio show "Front Porch Fellowship".

And Saturday afternoon I got blessed in listening as finally Les honored my request! It took so long because at first he did not even have it available -- turns out she covered it early in her singing career. And then it arrived by mail, and Les even gave me a "heads up" over the airwaves a week earlier! Well, let me tell you, Rhonda singing "Until Then" was well worth the wait! I really liked Jeff & Sheri's recording (featuring Sheri & her beautiful alto voice), but Rhonda was even better. And I really got into the accompaniment, which sort of to my surprise included pedal steel guitar (I'm pretty sure it wasn't Dobro I was hearing, because I can fairly well distinguish the two sounds). Steel is not a standard instrument of bluegrass; nevertheless, it's my favorite instrument to listen to of all instruments.

That evening (Saturday the 14th)my listening pleasure continued with the Grand Ole Opry show, on radio WSM-AM 650 "The Legend". The world's oldest live radio show has continued its post-flood nomadic progress while its home, the Opry House in Donelson, is repaired from flood damage. On Friday, 6 August, for example, the Opry was performed and broadcast from War Memorial Auditorium. (War Memorial, near the State Capitol and across Seventh Ave. from former site of National Life and Accident Insurance headquarters where WSM and the Opry were born, was the Opry's home for some years over six decades ago. The Tuesday evening after the flood crested, the Tuesday Night Opry took place there.

Most other post-flood Opry shows had been in its most famous former home (many folk erroneously think its first home) venerable Ryman Auditorium just off Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Avenues North. This offered to an unanticipated little treat for me. Most evenings I'll be riding homeward on the MTA bus (route #15) that departs Music City Central (MTA's downtown depot) at 9:15pm -- right when the Opry shows are concluding on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Hence, the bus will be southbound on Fourth Avenue while the audience is exiting the Ryman. It's delightful to see all these folk whom I know had attended a great country music show, while I'd listened on the radio.

Now Saturday (yesterday) was different, in that a couple who also work for Goody Wagons gave me a ride home. Therefore I didn't pass the historic auditorium as usual. But after I arrived at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Sunday morning and greeted Pastor Jay by wishing him and wife Dawn a happy anniversary, he informed me that the Hartleys had celebrated it on its eve by their first attendance at the Grand Ole Opry! I was so happy for them, that they'd gone!

You see, dear reader, the line-up of performers for Saturday show was even better than usual. Young Country Music star Mark Wills guested, singing his first hit, "Don't Laugh at Me." Crystal Gayle, sister of the Opry's Loretta Lynn but not herself a member, was another guest artist. Among the songs she sang was my favorite of hers, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue". The Whites hosted the second half hour andVince Gill the final. Dailey & Vincent were guests on that concluding segment of the show. One of their performances was a humorous version of "Daddy Sang Bass", which had me chuckling loudly.

Sunday morning at Eastwood CC(DC) gave me both a surprise and a much-anticipated treat. When I greeted Pastor Jay (Hartley) with a "Happy anniversary" for he and wife Dawn, he informed me that on its eve he and she pre-celebrated by attending the Grand Ole Opry, their first time. So they saw as well as heard that show which gave me so much listening pleasure the previous evening! Jay waxed enthusiastic, praising especially Mark Wills singing "Don't Laugh at Me", and Dailey & Vincent's performance. I really like it when folks I know who've lived for years or all their lives in Nashville get around to going to the Opry and have a good experience!

Then finally I was part of the much-anticipated return of the choir from our Summer break. We sang a very awesome and beautiful anthem, "Come Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Jesus", lyrics of which are from Hebrews 12:2 (in today's lectionary readings and one of my favorite verses of scripture, particularly in the New American Standard version. Instrumental accompaniment came from Marie Wiggins on piano, Nashville Symphony bassoonist and pastor's wife Dawn Hartley, and two young guest clarinetists. We sounded marvellous, if I do say so myself!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We Are Nashville (keepin' on keepin' on)

Well, it's now been three months since record torrential rains in Tennessee and adjacent States caused rivers to rise to unprecedented levels in the Great Flood of May 2010. Lives were lost (11 here in Nashville) and billions of dollars damage was inflicted on the region, in flooded homes, businesses, public buildings and the transportation infrastructure.

But now, three months later in early August as you or I travel around Music City, the metropolis looks pretty much "normal" i.e., as it did pre-flood. Just don't let a quick glance around fool you, dear reader! There is STILL damage to be repaired, there are residents who aren't back in their homes -- and homeless who still seek a new "camping spot" since "Tent City" beneath the Silliman Evans Bridge washed away -- and unemployed workers whose jobs drowned in the floodwaters.

In the past seven days I myself saw continuing evidence of the flood's fury. A neighborhood just off Lebanon Road which I drive thru selling ice cream lies partly in the flood zone of Mill Creek, and when I first re-entered it after the flood the lowest portions of it were busy with men cleaning flood debris. They'd eagerly purchase ice cream, but in a week or so the clean-up job was finished and they left. However, I continued to make sales to residents, both those living on higher ground, and those in the process of making their flooded homes habitable again.

I was just beginning to think the whole neighborhood had gotten back to "normal" when last Saturday I espied several folks at the end of a short cul-de-sac that I'd never driven down before (not even pre-flood). Eager to see if these people might make purchases, I directed the wagon into that cul-de-sac. Well, it turned out that these weren't residents out enjoying the late afternoon shade; they were either workers or residents still laboring on the houses.

As I passed each house, on both sides, coming and going, I saw that every one of them had doors and windows wide open. And thru the openings one could see that the insides were empty and stripped down to the two-by fours! These homes still awaited repair work to make them once again inhabitable!

It will still be several months before all repair work is done.

Yours truly hardly needed this experience to remind me of the on-going recovery efforts. Almost daily I'll be on the MTA route 15 bus from the downtown depot to Mercury Courts. Just ten or so blocks south of the depot on Fourth Avenue South sits the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall. This young, beautiful and awesome edifice yet is surrounded by temporary chain-link fencing. They're still working on repairing the Schermerhorn, which suffered over 40 million dollars damage. And of course, repair work continues on the Grand Ole Opry House, the Opryland Hotel, the mall that took Opryland Park's place, Nashville MTA offices and so on.

Yes, dear reader, Nashville may look pretty much back to "normal" -- and was indeed "open for business" regarding the music and tourism industries in just a matter of days after the Cumberland River crested. On the other hand, much work remains to be done, to REALLY get us all the way back to "normal"! So please pray for us. And remember: We Are Nashville!