Monday, March 1, 2010

leaving red mountain church

(this is what I read last night - when I announced I was leaving)

it is hard to know where to start - since we began, this church has been my home - a surprising oasis for me and so many people I love - for so many years. I have so many memories. james chapin and his orange flag waving from his wheelchair. pickwick center and the special smells in the stairwells. that time I preached a sermon (now that's funny). parties in bars and in brother bryan park and in the pickerings and the williams homes. babies that have come and brought so much new life to our church. so many amazing musicians - truly the finest musicians in our city. so many times of loss and grief - I look around this room and I see people who have sat with me, wept with me and for me, people who have stayed with me. so many times of joy - so many nights of laughing, bellies full of wine, knowing and being known, coupled with an equal amount of nights of sorrow - sitting in the sad silence of grief and not knowing what will happen next. so many memories from this beautiful place.

I have so much I am thankful for. for me and brooke - red mountain has been our family, and our primary community. red mountain is full people we care about; truly, leaving has been a difficult decision - red mountain has been the biggest thing holding us in birmingham for so many years.

and it goes without saying that the music of our church is something that is particularly special and beautiful to me. I say this often, and I will say it again, that the music of our church is way bigger than our small gathering here in birmingham. and it is way bigger than the people who help make it. our music is a collective - a gathering of souls, who, together, bring light and voice to glorious ideas, hopes, ancient texts, and dreams that are way bigger than any of us. the music of this church is the sum of so many small, intricate, important parts. it has been an absolute honor to be apart of the songs that have come together here - to help create the music that has carried me and so many people I love. to be apart of music that has spread so far. and it has been an honor for me to be carried by you - the people of red mountain - who allow me so much space and freedom to be who I am, to wrestle with the things I wrestle with, to question the things I question, and all the while, to stay, to hope, to be apart. I do not say this lightly - especially in light of the last year of my life - you have carried me through so much, and I am forever grateful. the music of this church may very well be the greatest work I'll ever be apart of. I hate to leave it. but the time has come.

brooke and I are moving to new york - I plan to be here through the month of april, and then we will be gone. our reasons for leaving are sad, and they are good. many of you know that I have been pursuing creative work outside of red mountain church (quarterrest) for some time now - and my hope is that I will be able to continue (and build) that work in new york - I am afraid of the challenges, afraid of failing, but I am excited about the possibilities. and at the end of the day, it is something I've just gotta do. I am looking forward to taking a break from church - it has been hard for me to be so close to the inner workings - and I have been in the church for so long - I am eager to find rest in a new place - and, most of all, I am eager to be alone with brooke. we need that.

it is worth saying, I think, that red mountain - our church - this place I have called home for so many years - has changed. we are not who we were when we set out. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, or an easily definable thing, or an unnatural thing, but it is worth admitting - it is an idea worth owning. in some ways, red mountain is no longer recognizable to me, and yet, it will always be a home to me. my hope is that, as you enter the next chapter in the life of this church, that you will take the time to define who you are, what your hopes for the city are, who you are here to serve, what your mission is, and that you will continually consider how the gospel is at work, in all of us, and in spite of us. even when it looks like it might not be.

red mountain music continues. we are putting the final touches on our last record. it will be out this summer. and it will be our best record yet, I promise you. and after that, I will keep exploring ancient texts, I will keep looking for people to collaborate with, and I will keep making this music that carries, the music that makes me feel like I'm not so alone. the music that I feel like I was created to make.

in the weeks to come, I am available to meet and talk with any of you, as long as I have time. I have already had conversations with so many of you, and it would be good to keep talking. I will miss you - I will miss this place - I will miss your kindness and your familiarity - and I will miss the musicians, who have become some of my closest friends -

thank you for giving me so many years here. thank you for creating the space for so much beautiful music. thank you for being a church that for so many years has been welcoming to artists. thank you for supporting me and allowing me to grow. I am forever grateful to red mountain church - you will be missed - and my heart is heavy -

a couple weeks ago I found myself in a catholic church, in a confessional, sitting right in front of a priest. I sat down, didn't know what to do, and the priest asked "are you catholic?" and I said "no." and the priest smiled at me with his kind eyes and said "that's ok, god's love is not just for the catholics." and his idea blew me away. this idea that he hadn't pinned god down - hadn't figured it all out - that god really was that big. one of the things I love about the old hymns we sing - and I say this often - is that they paint a picture of a really big jesus. and my hope for myself - and the hope I have for everyone I love - is that this really big jesus we speak of will overwhelm us and change us - that we will press on and love well and continue to find hope and faith - however that plays out.