Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Prayer for the Graduate - Words by Greg Funderburk

Congratulations, Class of 2020!

What a unique Commencement for the Class of 2020! In my opinion, graduates for 2020 will likely retain a label, identifying them for years to come. Sacrifice. Disappointment. "Option B."  "Option A" was not possible amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Class of 2020, our amazing "Pandemic Graduates." 

Though disappointing, there were likely unique revelations of human compassion, human nature, and general kindness that will be forever a part of graduates' lives, in addition to this global health crisis that made such revelations possible. I hope the Class of 2020 will remember that though the final concerts, banquets, parties, celebrations, trips, and gatherings were unable to happen, many people did their level best to make the day special for them. Creativity beyond comprehension found its way to Zoom, HUGE celebration yard signs, drive-by graduation (and retirement) parties, commencement speakers such as a former president, a former vice-president, professional athletes, music, movie and television stars, and other prominent humanitarians and business people...all seeking to do whatever they could to make Commencement 2020 memorable for graduates, most of whom they had never met. The most amazing part was that members of the Class of 2020 made it happen themselves. Leadership at its finest!!  It was memorable for me, too! I didn't miss anything! You were that important to me personally. You handled a horrible period in your history with grace and yes....."class." I was amazed, and watched all of the commencement celebrations on television and online. We will never be able to "make it up to you," but please know that prayers for your success will always be in our hearts and minds. You can handle anything in life.

Greg Funderburk

Greg Funderburk is a pastoral care minister, lawyer, and writer at South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Greg's poetic prayer style led to an SATB setting of his words in Prayer for the Graduate.  His unique descriptions of visual and aural elements of traditional Commencement exercises combined with melody to celebrate "a sonic blend of beginnings and endings.....a blend of music, prayer, and praise, and applause." He also caused us to respectfully admit the "bittersweet" content for this time in our graduates' lives.  When his words paired themselves with a cello obligato, the somber, bittersweet ceremony of 2020 came to life in our minds.

However, Greg did not leave the graduate to despair in the lack of all that "was not." His words encouraged all to "Rise. Let us be going. Let us commence in Your holy word on the road ahead. Let us rise to new life, to pray, give, and love, in this our ending, our beginning." In other words, "It is what it is. I don't like it. You don't like it. But...that's the way it is, so....let's move on!" One last prayer voiced for each 2020 graduate in the uncertain days ahead: "Quell our fears, soothe our worry, God of grace."

In these days when we really do not know if we will be back in large church choirs ensembles soon, Earlene Rentz Online Publications is happy to accommodate reasonable possibilities during these difficult days. In addition to the choral octavos purchased, all of our sacred publications now include complimentary High/Medium/Low Solo Voice publications. Save the choral file for the great and glorious day when a choir will once again be present in your churches to lead in worship. Until then, a soloist might be able to share Greg's wonderful words.

Commencement and graduation will continue to take place in our educational systems. It is important to remember that in 2020, we did commencement a bit differently, but with more creativity, compassion and gentle kindness than has ever attended our hearts during long speeches and mortar board tosses. Class of 2020, we salute you with respect, love, admiration, and hope for a beautiful future, filled with many days of glorious "Commencement." Congratulations!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Beautiful Blessings in a Pandemic Birthday

Display of Birthday Cards

I was dreading my birthday this year. Yes, everyone has a birthday annually, but this year is a bit unique. I've never had a birthday amid a Global Pandemic and neither have you. This is an unprecedented birthday year for everyone. We also have birthdays in these days of attempted good decisions, quarantine, masking, and yes...amid the displays of not-so-good-decisions from time to time. Patience and tolerance are on the personal "prayer list" for most folks, and sometimes it is an all-day-challenge to have enough of those qualities. Some of my friends are struggling to "think on the bright side," while the rest of us search for evidence in our lives that "things are going to get brighter" in the near future. We're choral directors! We've gotta have hope! We want a choir! We want our routine back! ......and then we see people making the worst decisions ever that will eventually work against our goal of finding our "normal" again....any type of normal would be great!!
When we walk outside or into a building, patience and tolerance seem to run short, as we wonder how personal celebrations are being moved back because of others' decisions. For this year, "celebration" seemed to be relegated to picking up a take-out order, taking a drive to the local post office, checking on packages sent via ground services, most of which finally arrive....not all....just most, etc. When COVID prevention is foremost in the brain, all other things are modified in huge ways...and generally diminished in some way. Not to complain. As far as I know, I'm healthy, and I can breathe just fine. That's a good day in COVID-ridden Houston. The bar just isn't that high now. Feeling "fine" means "no COVID."

And so....my accountant called a couple of days before my birthday to ask if she might return some of my tax materials. You see, I gave the materials to her in February, and by the time my tax return was ready to submit, COVID had HIT! Wham!! She asked if she might return the materials, and said she would call me when she had a minute to deliver them. She called the afternoon of my birthday to say she would be by in 15 minutes. As she was getting back in her car, we waved and smiled through masks, and she just said the customary, "Have a good afternoon," whereupon I said, "I hope I will have a good afternoon. It's my birthday. I want to have a really good day."

My account has the heart of an angel. She truly cares about people, wanting everyone to feel special. Her daughter had a "big" birthday (with a Zero) during the Pandemic, and she was so sad not to be able to invite others to celebrate her daughter in a big way. She really hurt for her daughter. Later, I remembered that fact, but she was obviously busy thinking of me all afternoon, because all of a sudden, calls, Facebook posts, messages, private messages, and all sorts of communication "broke loose" and started coming from everywhere to wish me a "Happy Birthday." My accountant has never admitted it, and yes...there were other family members and friends who remembered my special day earlier, but I know something was done to make sure I was remembered on my birthday.

So...my challenge for days of COVID...."Be a little more aware, a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more tolerant, a little more willing to see that someone else has a good day, a little better friend for loved ones, a little more aware, and listen a little more, too."

We will all get through these challenging times, but it really will take our thinking of others in a more intentional way than ever before. 

Have a good day!