The year was 1976 and Stevie Wonder’s album, Songs in the Key of Life, was at the top of the charts. I was a seventeen year old, beginning college in Boston. I played it ALL the time. It was the soundtrack of my freshman year. I play his music in the fall because it evokes some wonderful memories.
I’ve been a fan of Stevie Wonder’s music for as long as I can remember. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” and “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” are some of my favorites, but if I had to choose, I’d still picked “Songs in the Key of Life” as my favorite album and it’s because of songs like “Sir Duke,” “As,” and “Overjoyed.” I can’t choose between the music and the lyrics; I love them all for their full emotion and the ability his music has to speak to my soul.
Here’s a message to the Presbytery of Wabash Valley, inspired by a day of reading and writing and listening to Stevie Wonder:
We’re six months in to this pandemic marathon. Fall and winter are coming, along with lots of warnings about health challenges along with the vitriol we’ve come to know as a nation during election season. If these past months have taught us anything, it is that we people of faith have a role to play in this season. Now as much as ever, we’re learning what it means to be the Church. We’ve been offered an opportunity to consider what matters most– health and safety, life in community, wholehearted concern for one another. One another.
I’ve been watching congregations and pastors closely in this season, and although it sometimes feels like it’s from a distance, I think I have a pretty unobstructed view of what’s going on. Pastors and congregations are so tired and so filled with yearning. Some are very worried. Others are losing hope. One of our colleagues rightly observed that some feel as though they must fix something that can’t be fixed. Sometimes fear translates into anger, and it’s not hard to absorb that anger and frustration and take it personally. Let’s try not to take anger and frustration out on one another.
We can get through this, we are getting through this, but it will take patience and kindness and creativity and more patience with one another. We made promises to one another in baptism and in church membership. We belong to each other.
Pastors, you’re working hard and you’re doing remarkable work, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: please share the challenges and the joys of ministry with others. It’s not all on your shoulders. Keep communicating and sharing love with people who are working and juggling and worried, just like you. Invite them into this work with you. Congregation members, find the good and share it. Let your pastors know what you appreciate about their worship leadership. Keep praying for them and for your congregation, or take on that practice.
Or, just be like Stevie Wonder and pick up your phone and say to someone for whom it’s true, “I just called to say I love you.” It will be good for both of you.