Beauty in Boston

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I’m in Boston as I write this, tagging along with the youth choir, Michael Dauterman, Misha Stefanuk, and some great chaperones.  But after four days, I’ll be honest: I don’t know how much more I can take.

It all started Saturday when we arrived in Boston and, having barely settled in, launched into a scavenger hunt designed to introduce us to the city.  I joined the high school boys as ballast.  Actually, the boys divided into two groups so they could tackle  the tasks at hand more efficiently.  I was part of “Bravo Team,” which should give you an idea of how the guys approached the contest.

Apparently somehow, the first stop for Bravo team was Bunker Hill.  Check one sight off the list.  But wait!  There are bonus points if you climb to the top of the memorial tower, or as I now call it, the Obelisk of Doom—294 steps from ground to top. “You don’t have to do it,” Connor Bell, chaperone for Bravo Team, told me with genuine concern in his eyes.  “Oh, no, I want to,” I said.  “Oh no you don’t!” my body screamed.  And it’s been screaming ever since.  Somewhere around step 200 I told Connor, who had laid back with me as the guys raced on, “Go!  Leave me!  Tell Kathy I love her!”  And he left me!  They don’t do that in the movies. 

Anyway, after lying on the grass outside the tower for about 30 minutes, I was ready to continue.  Those high schoolers were exceptionally patient with me, which impressed me, AND they won the hunt, proving that good guys can indeed finish first.

Now, I could elaborate on my near-death experience and the fire still burning in  my legs three days later, but I think I’ll talk about beauty instead.  Interesting concept, beauty.  It’s in the eye of the beholder, they say, or maybe it’s in the ear, or maybe the heart.  Yes, that’s it—the heart.  Or, at least that’s where beauty finally finds home after its journey of light and sound. 

Sunday morning we were in Boston University’s Marsh Chapel for worship, and I sat in a place that felt a little strange to me—a pew.  I watched and listened as the Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin (yes, Emory’s own, who has spoken at Glenn twice in the past year) preached powerfully on moral leadership. 

Then I watched and listened as our choir sang.

The music was lovely and the singers delightful, middle schoolers and high schoolers in their rows, boys, girls, faces alight, voices blending, God glorified.  Sound and sight made their way to the heart of this beholder. The music was beautiful.  They were beautiful. 

I beheld  it again Monday as the group worked at an urban farm—hard work, easy camaraderie, and four-part laughter—beauty.  Tuesday they sang in an historic church in Truro, and I imagined almost 200 years of singers in that place and every voice beautiful, none more than these.

Today they sang at a memory care facility here in Boston, with concerts on two different floors.  I had the job of fiddle-holder or, if you prefer, violin attendant, tending the instrument until Marian Waller moved from singer to accompanist.  I did well, thank you, but I prefer my true calling of listening and watching.  In that place today, I listened as young sang to old, and I saw with sorrow the wounds time brings. Still, there was a balm in the songs and conversations, and in the moment shared was grace.

I write these words as Wednesday ends, which means I have two more days with these kids.  I’ll be honest: I don’t know how much more I can take.

I mean, how much beauty can one heart hold?

Rev. Mark Westmoreland, Senior Pastor