After reading the following email from Gerry Grosz I contacted him almost immediately and asked him if I could share it with you. While it contains some disappointing news it also is a tribute to who we are (at our best moments) and a testimony to what we aspire to be as followers of Jesus who meet for worship at the corner of Lakeshore and Mandana in the City of Oakland.
Hello Jim, Ally, and of course Mikki,
I spoke to Mikki on the phone the other day and told her that I’d be writing to you all. The reason is to let you know that — although the contract has yet to be officially signed — I have essentially agreed to take a regular position as the Church Musician (pianist and de facto music director) at San Rafael First United Methodist Church. They even had a little “ceremony” during the service last Sunday wherein the outgoing pianist handed over the accompanist hymnal to me. That musician is retiring after a whopping *61* years at that church!!! Can you believe that? That’s *16* pastors that he put up with… uh… I mean, worked with… over the years. :) This currently appears to be a smallish congregation, with only about two dozen people there last week. (Although it’s still summer, so I guess I should expect it to increase next month.) There’s no official choir right now, so predominantly I’m just the church pianist, which means fewer hours and responsibilities than a full-on Music Director would have to provide. All in all, it seems like a good fit, even though I’m still sussing out and learning about the church.
Taking this new position is certainly bittersweet, because what this means, of course, is that I won’t be available for regular playing at Lakeshore Avenue at this point. Everywhere I have ever gone, and anyone I have ever talked to about church stuff, I rhapsodize at length about all the things that I treasure about Lakeshore. As someone who grew up far away from organized religion, I could conceive of no place more hospitable and “groovy” — hey, I’m a jazz musician; I get to say things like that — for me to play in than Lakeshore. The true diversity, in both the pulpit, the pews, and the music. And, of course, how the prime tenets that you preach are love, peace, equality, tolerance, charity, and justice. It has always been easy for me to sit with you and minister with you and be with you all. I hold up Lakeshore as the model of what I hope for in a church.
Obviously, the new church position affords me a steady, weekly job and paycheck, which is much needed at this time. And it’s very close to home, which is good for me and the environment. And it’s even a slightly later start, which is good for me as a night owl! :) That all said, I have told Mikki that it would be tragic for me to leave the Lakeshore community for good. We are going to look for ways to continue to collaborate together, and I would like to still come back and play as a guest musician on (rare) occasion in the future. I won’t be able to play most services anymore, and unfortunately, probably not the Christmas Eve service, either. (Although I will look into the timing of our Xmas Eve service to see if there’s the slightest possibility, but don’t hold your breath.) However, at the very least, I would very much like to come back during African-American History Month to keep up our Jazz Sunday tradition at Lakeshore. And maybe we will find other special opportunities here or there, too.
Note, too, that I am still available outside of Sunday mornings, should the need arise. And maybe we can even get around to considering holding a Jazz Vespers at Lakeshore when the time is right, too.
So thank you again. More than anywhere else, you made “Church” a warm, welcoming, and acceptable place for me. I’m grateful for the many years I had playing music at Lakeshore, and will look forward to continued alliances in the future, albeit less frequently at this point.
With sincere gratitude and fond memories,