Monday, September 13, 2010 Scott was called into a meeting where the stewardship committee chairman, the chairman and another representative from the personnel committee, the deacon chairman, and the pastor all sat around the conference table. Scott was not aware that this meeting was taking place until they called and asked him to come in.
At that meeting they informed Scott that due to budget constraints, his full time position as minister of music was being eliminated. He was given a sheet of paper that outlined 3 severance package details. The first of which stated that he could leave that very day and the church would provide him with one week’s pay for every year of service, which on that day would have been 13 years.
Let me say that again. He could have walked out that day. Monday, September 13, 2010.
They also gave him the option to stay until December 31, still collecting the one week’s pay for every year of service as severance. By then it would he would have reached 14 years of service.
The third detail in the severance options provided that if he secured another full time minister of music position before December 31 then he would only receive 2 week’s severance pay.
I was out of town that day. By the time I got a break in what I was doing and was able to call and check in, it was a little later in the morning. I had no idea any of this has taken place. Scott told me the news over the phone. He said that after the meeting he walked out of the office and down the hall to the choir room where he had been and still was sitting in darkness and silence. What do you say to your husband at a time like this?
There are no words.
Scott and I were very much aware of the budget difficulties. We knew something had to be done. We also knew the difficulties go way beyond just the budget woes. He and I both have been praying for 4 or 5 years, at least, for something to happen in our church; something big enough to stir the long-still waters. Losing his job was not exactly what we had been praying for, but almost instantaneously we saw it as perhaps clearing the way for that BIG thing, whatever it was, to come through. If this is how God was going to get through, then by all means, let us go. We started packing boxes immediately. I started giving things away that I didn’t want to have to move. Neither Scott nor I were totally devastated or depressed about the situation. We were just hopeful that something really grand was on the horizon for both us and for this church. How do you tell people you’re really at peace about losing your livelihood?
There are no words.
Being so ready and willing to accept what he’d been dealt and seeing it as the hand of God working in all of our lives, the most likely choice was for Scott to walk out that day, Monday, September 13, 2010. We were eager to get on with it.
Back in the spring, months before any of this, Scott picked out a musical to do for Christmas. His vision was to invite as many different church choirs and individuals to join us as we could. His vision went beyond our little choir to the entire community. By the time September 13 arrived, we had already had 2 rehearsals for this musical. We were already overwhelmed by the number of people that showed up for those rehearsals, from all aspects of our community.
Scott was committed. He was committed to this event long before he ever bought the first piece of music for it. The first rehearsal back in August solidified it for him. The second one only made his commitment stronger and deeper. It was the only thing that kept him from walking away on September 13. The ONLY thing. And I will say it one more time: He could have left that day. But he wanted to see this thing through, regardless of his job. He found himself in the middle of something that was so much bigger than he and his own vision and he couldn’t let go even if he tried. How do you tell the employer that just laid you off, “well, thanks, but I think I’ll stick around for a while anyway”?
There are no words.
Since then Scott’s whole job situation has been revamped, thanks to some other church members who had visions of their own. Scott’s job has been reinstated, but with a 10% pay cut. There are two other ministers whose jobs and salaries have also been affected too, but I can’t speak for them or their stories. And really, all of that is a separate story in and of itself which maybe one day I’ll tackle. Or not. But today my focus here is the musical.
With all that has happened since this whole thing started, we have prayed diligently for this musical event. I continued to pray, as I have for the last 5 years, for something incredible to happen in this church and acknowledged that this event was a wonderful opportunity for that to happen. Specifically, I prayed that the building would be full of people to hear the message, no empty seats, and that all the other space would be taken up by the Holy Spirit, that there would be absolutely no room whatsoever left for satan to find his way in. Scott prayed for chairs. He specifically asked for the need to put out folding chairs because of the overflow crowd. He said it out loud several times over the last couple of months.
While I don’t think anyone really knows for sure, our sanctuary seats approximately 450+. Our average Sunday morning attendance is about 140.
The presentation of this musical was this past Friday night, December 3. It was set to begin at 7 p.m.
Here’s the scene at about 6:40 p.m.
Chairs, y’all. There are chairs. Some didn’t even have chairs and had to stand throughout the whole thing.
Even before the music started, something besides people began to fill up the sanctuary. As the program began it was almost as if what was going on inside the building was bigger than what the walls themselves could contain. The Holy Spirit did indeed fill the room. It’s just so hard to explain the presence…
Afterwards, the comment I heard over and over again from those who were there… “There are no words.”
Ironic, I think, that the title of the musical was “The Voices of Christmas.” There are no words for the Voices of Christmas. The thing that happened and the praises that were raised were in a language only God could understand.
Afterwards, the crowd went home, the furniture was moved back in place, the trash picked up, and the sanctuary set in order for Sunday morning. We went to get something to eat then headed home. I would have thought Scott would have been on top of the world after all this. Instead, he seemed more quiet and distant and unreadable. He had no words.
The next day I woke and got out of bed long before Scott. I went to the other end of the house to work on a project on the computer. A couple of hours later I came back towards our bedroom and saw Scott sitting on the vanity stool in our bathroom. He was just sitting there in the quiet looking at the floor. The closer I got to him, the more I realized his eyes were filled with tears.
I think in that moment we both realized the enormity of what God had done. That Scott was not capable of or responsible for whatever it was that happened with the Voices of Christmas. That in spite of his inadequacies, God used him anyway. That his faith in leaving the unknown up to God in not giving it up on September 13 resulted in a greater blessing for 500+ other people.
It was just too much; there are no words.
I suddenly understood what Isaiah meant when he said “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
We saw the King, the Lord Almighty, fill our sanctuary Friday night and it ruined my husband. Ruined him because he will never be the same. And there are no sweeter words than that.
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3