A ministry of interruptions

Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper sticker wisdom that states…

 Life is what happens when you’re making plans

And we’re never busier or more full of plans than in December, are we!  A former colleague once joked about our ministry of interruptions – days spent dealing with the moment, people stopping by the office, calls, emails, crises, hallway conversations…unexpected encounters.  Or for me sometimes, unexpected pathways of thought that have me zigzagging through my work and life. Planning is good – I spend a lot time planning for the future myself – but I’ve always known, at least intellectually, that looking ahead can keep us from participating in the good or instructive – or transformative – things happening right around us, right now.

Interruptions – sometimes welcomed, but more often something to avoid.  What about the interruption that John the Baptist represents in this otherwise liturgically quiet and thoughtful lead up time to Christmas?  JB could be seen as an interruption to this culturally festive time as well, when we decorate our homes and go to a lot of parties where locusts and wild honey are probably not on the menu. Though we do spend a lot of time repenting…of our gluttony!

This is a time of year when we also put a great deal of energy into thinking about what we can give to others.  And I don’t mean just presents under a tree.  We are more inclined to donate money to charities that help those in need, or participate in clothing and food drives that serve the poor.  I think that John the Baptist’s presence in Advent reminds us, however, that we can get so busy trying to change the world that we forget the most effective charity begins with changing ourselves – changing our hearts to welcome the interrupting voices in the wilderness.

Several years ago one of the clergy staff here at St. Alban’s and I cooked up some idea to have her sing “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” from Godspell as she walked down the aisle during the processional.  She decided to dress like John the Baptist, including a crazy wig left over from Halloween, no doubt.  As she waited in the narthex she became aware that no one recognized her, and that in fact they were avoiding this ill-dressed, potentially mentally unstable, and probably homeless, person in their midst.  I tell this story not to condemn our parishioners, but to remind us that one of the reasons we come to church is to learn how to open our hearts and minds to these disquieting moments, or people.  Speaking for myself, I need regular reminders.

And what is music’s role in all of this?  I believe in the transformative power of singing as a community and I would like to think that the music we make at St. Alban’s is part of that first step we take as Christians to change our hearts, as we learn to welcome the interruptions that just might take us one step further on this journey of faith.

This entry was posted in Sonya Subbayya Sutton and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A ministry of interruptions

  1. Dennis Jones says:

    Thanks for helping us transform ourselves and others through the wonderful singing that you arrange each week.

  2. Christopher Larsen says:


  3. linda bickford says:

    Bless you. Not only do your words each week inspire me, your music does, as well. I am lucky to be part of the place of your ministry.

  4. Anton Vanterpool II says:

    When asked at a recent Toastmasters meeting to introduce yourself and cite your favorite Christmas tradition, I said “singing with my choir on Christmas Eve.” The Christmas Eve mass is one of a handful of “Super Bowl” services in the Christian Faith and the Anglican Tradition. What we as a choir with our fellow musicians, including the congregation, do in helping to change the hearts and minds at that place in time is “Indescribably Awesome.”

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