Friday, April 17, 2015

Transition time is starting to become a little bittersweet . . . already . . .

Last night, our 1st Church String Band performed during the first dinner of the Latvian pastor's conference at FUMC-Grapevine.  In attendance were most of the Methodist pastor's from Latvia, some of their spouses, and many of the officers and members of the "Friends for Latvia" national ministry group.  About 6 members of our little group were able to make it, and we sang pretty good.

Unless something comes up on the schedule, this may have been my last time to perform with the band, which was birthed out of a guitar group I started during my second year at FUMC-Grapevine, sometime in 2006.  We gathered twice a week.  Then someone asked us to play a concert for a Boy Scout troop committee dinner.  Then we were asked to play Christmas carols before and after worship services during Advent.

After a year or so, we were asked to sing in worship.  That was perhaps the best rendition of "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again" that we ever performed.

Later, we hosted a fund-raising concert, and raised several thousand dollars for water wells in Kenya.  Then we started getting requests to do multiple Christmas concerts.  December became our busiest time of year.  Last year we performed 8 times!

Sunday school class party and dinner invites followed.  We sang at the Heritage Campus a few times.  We stayed busy for a group of volunteers.

When I had cancer, a couple of the guys took over my manager duties, and they kept us busy as well.  Concerts and other gigs would come in "seasons".    I was always convinced that invites came because we were free!   Getting to eat before or after singing was always considered a paying gig.   Decembers stayed busy.

Most importantly for all these years has been the relationships.  Our lead guitar players. Alan and Scotty, both came and went, as did other members of the band, either due to moving or children getting older.   Sometimes it was because of health.  We aren't exactly a young group.  I will be 58 next month, and I think I am the 2nd youngest member.   A few other people came and visited and played with us, but liked other kinds of music, went their way as well.

I actually dropped out for a while when I was getting certified with Hugworks, and because of my professional schedule.  We usually rehearse on Thursday evenings, and Thursdays start for me at 5:30 AM.  Sometimes I just "ran out of steam" and had no energy to play.  I usually make it once every month.

Last night, playing with Papa Russ, Mari, Harvey, Stu, Joe and Mark, it struck me that we aren't great.  But we do harmonize well, and if we keep time when the bass player isn't there, we don't sound half bad.  Our harmonies carry us.  They always have.

If last night was the last gig with the group, then I am sad.  But then I think about all the times we played together in public.  Seriously, we had the balls and gumption, despite fear and stage fright, to get up in front of people and take a chance they would like us.  Others never get out of the garage or place they are rehearsing.  We actually played enough, and well enough, that we got invitations to play.  We got a little bit of a following.  Groups knew they could count on us to come prepared, and give it the best we could.  And, we always encouraged everyone in the audience to sing with us.  I proudly look back with great memories singing with this group, especially with Papa Russ, Stu, Harvey, Ned, Charley and Jeff, who were there when we first started.  We all got better playing and singing in the process.

All things come to an end.  That's a fact of life I don't try to hide from anymore. My ministry at FUMC-Grapevine will come to an end on June 14th.  My singing with the 1st Church String Band may have come to an end yesterday.   I leave both with no regrets about either experience.  Just good memories. That's a good thing!

And through it all, God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Announcement of my change in pastoral appointment . . .

My eBlast article announcing my upcoming move to FUMC-Crowley can be found at    http://www.firstmethodistgrapevine.org/10664/article/article_id/438902/A-Note-From-Rev-Rick-Mang or by clicking here.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, April 13, 2015

Transition time is here . . .

It was announced yesterday, April 12th, that I will be accepting a new pastoral appointment, beginning on July1st, at the First United Methodist Church in Crowley, Texas.  My last Sunday at FUMC-Grapevine will be on Sunday, June 14th, the date of my 10th anniversary.

My wife and I are truly excited about this new ministry opportunity,  However, this is a bittersweet moment as well.  We have made some very tender and precious memories of the Grapevine church and community.  Some of the best people we have ever known and served in ministry with.  It's hard to say goodbye, so we don't.  Rather, we always say, "until we meet again!"

Musically, I will be bringing to a close all my current gigs in the Grapevine area at the end of May. I hope to be singing again in the greater Crowley area (Crowley, Burleson, Joshua) as I work to establish relationships with area retirement and nursing homes.  My new church has a pre-school and after-school ministry, so I hope to be singing to children again on a more regular basis.

Now is the time to take a good long hard look at my instruments and sound equipment.  I have moved away somewhat from "keep it simple."  It's time to pair down to essentials with limited back up instruments and equipment.  That will not be easy at all.  I am a very proud "owner."  And, I am not  well off enough financially to be a collector of guitars either (despite my comments on this blog that stated otherwise).  The truth is, a guitar in a closet that isn't being played is not benefitting anyone.

I will still remain a volunteer with Hugworks, but on a more limited basis for at least the summer.  I'm still working on a project for them, and I promised that I will see that through, although it has taken longer than I thought, but part of that is due to how Hugworks is restructuring.

In the end, my mission in life is still "to make a joyful noise wherever I am, or cause one to be made." In a few months, we will be making a joyful noise in the Crowley, Texas area.

And that's a good thing!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Greetings to family and friends,

Happy Easter to one and all!

God's grace still amazes me . . . especially on this day!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Holy Week . . .

Well, duties as a pastor of a large church have taken the forefront of my focus during this season of Lent, and rightly so, as I make my living, and fulfill my calling, as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  And now it is Holy Week (Good Friday today) with Easter Sunday in just a few days.

On the Monday after Easter, you will probably hear a long and languid primordial sigh . . . emanating from all the preachers and church staff across our great land who both thank God for Easter Sunday, and who also thank God that Easter has come and gone.  Lent is a busy season of the church year, because getting ready for Easter takes a lot of work for both individuals personally, and for a church staff's in getting programs set up.   A busy time.

Now if the rain forecast for Easter Sunday will just hold off a day.

There hasn't been, or rather I haven't taken much time for music.  I have been playing my three regular Monday morning retirement home/assisted living center gigs, but that's about all.   The 1st Church String Band has a gig in April, and in early May, but then our calendar is somewhat empty.   I have scheduled my regular gigs through the end of May.  I will take off June - August as I usually do, expect for Vacation Bible School.  During the summer I go through and repair/replace all my music equipment, as well as tend to the needs of my guitars, and also to focus on learning new songs and guitar techniques at home.

And . . . I need to spend some time devoted to banjo playing.  The long neck Gibson I was gifted with by the Laughlin's hasn't been out of its case much in the past few months.

Yesterday morning, I spent some time in my home music room, and I did manage to put some time in on most of my acoustic guitars.  I have too many.

As the old saying goes, "how many guitars does a guitar player need?  Just one more . . . " 

I do appreciate the different sound qualities of each.  I hadn't played my Guild jumbo 6-string in quite a while.  I used it the entire summer of 2013, especially the month I spent as a chaplain at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.   Each guitar has a good back story.  Those back stories may be what I write about this summer.

I hope each of you has observed a Holy Lent.  And I hope each of you has a joyous Easter Sunday.

Keep making music whenever you can.   Make a joyful noise!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>