So in case you havent read my last post,this last week I had a bit of a crisis when my parents told me that they had just been to their last 17:30 mass at St Charles! Our parish has literally changed my life (and in so many ways), so hearing that my parents officially weren’t going to be part of it anymore was tough to hear. It brought back memories and I realised that it has been 18 years since we moved up from Durban and starting going to VP. I was in grade 9!
It was the first time in my life that I actually looked forward to going to mass every week. There were some cool people and an interesting priest but for me it was the music ministry that really made a difference in the beginning. I remember really being able to pray during the mass with the music that was played.
I was a really shy kid so it took a lot of effort, but in the end I built up the courage to show up one evening at band practice just to see what it was like… and that was all it took. I kept coming back each week, for the music, and then for the friendships. Dropped off by my mom or dad with a thick flip-file full of songs and a guitar I couldn’t really play, I would sit in the back of the practice room or the church, strum the chords I knew and then just sing when that got too difficult. Over the next few months I met Julie, Eric, Byron, Meghan, Stacey, and a whole host of musicians and singers who were always friendly, encouraging and welcoming; and ultimately helped me to learn to play the guitar and to get to know the Holy Mass. After a few months I got better: I started playing and singing every Sunday, helped lead praise and worship with the youth group and joined the others on “road trips”, when we were asked to play at a wedding at a different church. It was a really great few years in which I made friendships that I will have for the rest of my life.
Over all the years since, I never left the band. I kept playing and singing and learning and God blessed me with more and more. I soon started leading the music at Holy Mass some Sundays, with much help, and would do small praise and worship sessions with youth and young adults groups. Then I helped with bigger groups. I learned the bass guitar (up to a certain point) and played it for Byron’s CD launch. I learned to play the drums (also up to a certain point). I was part of the band Pocket Kings 3:15 with Byron, Mike and Julie. I was part of the group that started the Jesus and Me worship concert and played in it for 9 years with our band. I wrote and recorded an album of Christian worship songs, with the help of these incredible musician friends of mine. I agreed to lead the band when Byron got married and had kids. Over the years we have lead praise and worship for thousands of young people. So if you ever doubt the parable about the talents, come speak to me (when I started out I just wanting to be able to play and sing “Heart if Worship” from beginning to end on my own). I played music at mass most Sundays for years. I really grew to love Holy Mass and serving through the music ministry. I never left the band, for 14 years… well, until last year.
Why? Well it turns out that while I was growing as a musician, I was also growing in my relationship with Our Lord. In fact the two aren’t mutually exclusive: this music and my relationship with Our Lord had always been closely linked for me. And it also didn’t hurt that when I went on retreats with those groups that asked me to lead praise and worship for them I stayed and listened and participated in the sessions. They all taught me so much but through the music ministry I learned that I have the capacity to serve others, and that it was something that I wanted to do. I learnt what service really looks like when I saw the tireless efforts of people like Eric, Byron, Julie and Fr James who were there willingly week in and week out, often without thanks, for the love of God. And over the years I came to see and appreciate the depth, beauty and mystery that is the Holy Mass, the Holy sacrifice of Jesus for us all.
The one thing that will always stick with me is that it is easy to want to be part of the music ministry on a Sunday when are playing music and people come up to you after mass and say “well done, that was great” (which doesnt happen that often). The real work is arriving an hour and a half before mass to set up and practice (in that sleepy digesting period after Sunday lunch), finding time to read the readings and pick songs that relate to the mass readings during the week, coming in on weekends to check and fix equipment, setting up the laptop and operating the projector at Holy Mass, organising practices every week, playing music for weddings, driving out to distant lands to play music at youth retreats.
Julie, Eric, Stacey, Meghan and Byron are still serving at Victory Park. Eric plays on Saturday nights now. Julie is there almost every Sunday evening and holds practices on the Thursdays when there are enough members available. Byron, Stacey and Meghan play as often as they are available. Over the years as members came and went, a core group of these musicians has always remained. They are the reason that our music ministry has always been so fruitful, their humble hearts of service. There are so many like them at our parish who serve others not for the honour or the good feeling they get, but to put God’s love into practice. It is incredible to me that 14 years later, after I joined the group and left, these guys are still serving our Lord and His Church in this way.
This is a letter of thanks to St Charles youth music ministry and choirs for all the hard work you put in behind the scenes. And especially thank you for such beautiful music this last weekend and making my parents last 17:30 mass at VP special. I also want to encourage you reading this to think about whether you or someone you know has what it takes to join the music ministry? What does it take? A little talent, a little faith, a love of music and dedication… sure… but most of all a heart, humble enough to say “Here I am Lord, it is I Lord…” and Our Lord will do the rest.