Looking for the Lament Band

Looking for the Lament Band

From time to time I look over listings of ministerial job openings, mainly to make sure none of them are saying, “We need Peggy Haymes to come and let us pay her a large amount of money which she will be happy to tithe.” Haven’t found that yet.

I do see, however, music ministry openings whose requirements include being able to lead the Praise Band. I’ve heard of lots of churches that have Praise Bands. I keep looking for one that has a Lament Band.

There’s no reason not to, if you think about it. If you keep track as you read the psalms you’ll find that there are many more psalms of lament than songs of praise. The psalmist gives thanks but the psalmist also pitches a fit, wails in deep sorrow and directly questions God.

Both the praise and the laments of the psalms create a container for the realities of our lives. There are times when we can say with glad and grateful hearts, “God is good.” And there are times when we must shake our fists at the heavens and scream, “If you are so good, God, then where are you?”

Why do I suffer?
Why do I lose what’s most dear to me?
Why do the bad guys get to win, running over the good guys time and time again?

This hymnal of the church doesn’t provide easy answers. But it lets us know that there is no part of our human experience that is off limits to our faith and no feeling that we need to express that God cannot hear.

So maybe I’ll get started on that Lament Band.

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My latest book, I Don’t Remember Signing Up for This Class: a life of darkness, light and surprising grace” is now available for Kindle. The print version will be out in September.

“Don’t just stand there despairing.”

It’s been a rough week on this corner of the planet. A boy is killed, apparently for the color of his skin, and the long simmering racial divides of a community erupt into what looks like a third world uprising: unarmed protesters against authorities in full military gear. And we wonder how it will be different.

A man who was obviously enormously talented in moving us both to laughter and to tears as well as making our hearts soar (and who was by all accounts a lovely human being) takes his own life. We try to imagine – or try not to remember – the depths of such black despair and we wonder how it will be different for others.

In other parts of our planet centuries of conflict are being played out with weapons old and new. Hatred stoked by the centuries erupts into killing and cruelty, and we wonder how it will ever be different.

Along the border of our own nation there is a struggle between too much and not enough. Children fleeing from too much danger, abuse and hopelessness find themselves rebuffed by communities feeling already over-stretched by not enough resources, not enough answers for the problems they themselves face. We wonder how it can ever be different.

There were events in my own life this week that didn’t make the news. A former client shared an email with me that she’d sent to her friends, “outing” herself as one who has struggled with the great black dog of depression and who now consciously chooses to live her life in ways that allow the light in. It was a brave and heartfelt email, and a reminder that for her, life is very different.

Last Saturday I also attended a meeting of the Steering Committee of Baptist Women in Ministry, NC. As we talked about next year’s meeting I thought back to the first meeting I attended so many years ago. Thirty, maybe forty people huddled together hoping for hope that locked doors might be opened. Our theme, taken from a song lyric, was “One by one, truth will grow.” As we met on Saturday I thought about how different things are now. We provide not insubstantial scholarship money for a woman student at each of the Baptist Divinity Schools in NC. And in recent months women have become pastors at both Watts St. Baptist in Durham and Riverside Church in New York City. One by one…

This week I’ve been reading John Philip Newell’s book, The Rebirthing of God. In it he quotes Nobel Peace Prize winner (and Mayanmar activist) Aung San Suu Kyi who has spent most of the last twenty-five years under house arrest. “Don’t just stand there despairing. Do something.”

It seems as good a word as any for this week. Don’t know how to resolve the Middle East or global warming or immigration or race relations or the scourge of depression? Do what you do know. Do one thing. You may think you’re only touching one life but you do not know how many other lives that one life will touch and how many lives those lives will touch. You may only write one letter but you do not know if yours will be the letter that’s the tipping point. You may only clean one stream or befriend one person who is of another race or political party or from the other side of the tracks. But you do not know where those steps will lead.

Don’t just stand there despairing. Do something.

Making a new trail

When I came to College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC as Associate Minister in 1986, they saw me as something of a groundbreaker. They’d never had an ordained woman on staff before. In fact, no Baptist church in Greensboro had done such a thing. One elderly member has since confessed to me that while she didn’t vote against me, she wondered why they were calling a woman “when there were so many fine male ministers out there.”

Since that time there has been a long line of outstanding women ministering through that position. (In case you’re wondering, they’ve had the same pastor for twenty years.) The pastor is always quite gracious to me in giving me credit for starting things off. “These are the fruits of your ministry,” he says.

Maybe. But maybe not so much.

I wasn’t there long before I started hearing stories about Lounelle Selle, a non-ordained but no less legendary “education director” who’d ministered some years before me. People remembered Tex, as she was called, fondly and with great respect. I always felt like she’d made my job just a little bit easier. I may have opened a door, but Tex was the one who unlocked it.

I was delighted to see the following story about her in our paper this morning. (click here)

We all stand on someone’s shoulders. Sometimes we know it. Often we don’t. Today, let us remember, give thanks for and celebrate the people who fought for a trail that the pioneers could follow.

Special note:
I am scheduling my program, “Apple juice, butter cookies and other ways to save a life” in churches for the fall schedule. Contact me (peggy@peggyhaymes.com) if you’re interested in finding out more.