Charge to Minister: Bret

Bret LortieCongratulations! To my good friend, the Rev. Mr. Bret Lortie, and to the members and families of the Unitarian Church of Evanston, I congratulate you on taking this formal step in your evolving relationship, working together to serve the world and to understand the Divine impulse in us all.

I met Bret at Meadville Lombard, a little over a decade ago. We became friends pretty quickly; and my wife and I have the greatest respect for the way that Bret and Cindy work together as spouses and as parents.

One of the reasons I like Bret is that we are both trombone players. Our shared love of music will be the frame for this charge.

Bret, in your evolving ministry serving this congregation, its surrounding community, and our world as a whole, I charge you to listen carefully to the music being played through you. Hear it and play it to the best of your abilities. I charge you to help others to hear their music, and to harmonize with each other.

Whether you want to say that this music comes from the Spirit of Life, as it evolves through and among us; or whether you prefer the metaphor of the music of the spheres, the mathematics of the multiverse manifesting as melody; or in more traditional language, that God is singing and playing through every being in creation; whatever you call its source, the music is calling us to join.

Listen carefully to that chorus, and play your part as well as you can.

Take training, from all the experts and teachers you can find. Practice regularly, always improving your craft. Take good care of your instrument (exercise and eat right). Empty your spit valve when necessary (take vacation, and keep a Sabbath day every week).

Expand your repertoire. Play funeral dirges, joyful ditties, work songs and healing chants. Learn the songs of other cultures and traditions, and voice them with respect.

Play solos when appropriate; improvise to keep it fresh and real. Do not allow your ego to get in the way–don’t step on the parts that others are playing. In the words of Bowen and Friedman, do not overfunction. Pay close attention to how you are balancing with the rest of the musicians.

Support the others in the band—-especially those in your own section. Set aside time to spend with Cindy, and Jevin, and other friends and colleagues. Save some of the best of yourself for them.

Work with everyone in this congregational orchestra. Help them to learn and play their individual parts, and encourage them to harmonize with each other. Show them the joy of playing rhythm and harmony when others have the melody. Demonstrate the satisfaction of being part of something larger than one’s self. As was just stated [as part of the Installation], lead them in their “striving toward a greater understanding of and commitment to the religious life.”

Finally—-and most importantly—-keep an eye on the conductor. Check in regularly and stay grounded in the downbeat. We are often tempted to look away, to try to focus on the chart in front of us—-especially when the harmonies get complicated, or the tempo picks up. We tell ourselves that we can rely on our own sense of rhythm; we will look up again, right after the next measure.

Resist that temptation! Keep one eye on the conductor. Whether it be through prayer, or meditation, or some other grounding practice, maintain a *daily* connection to the underlying pulse of the music.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that, “Many a sinner has played himself into heaven on the trombone.” May you, and the Unitarian Church of Evanston, play so well together that you help create a heaven here on earth.
So may we be.

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