Giving thanks for the 225 hours it takes to make our shows possible...

Once upon a time in Tucson, during a stewardship campaign, I shared an overview with the congregation of what it takes to bring them one Sunday morning worship.  In those days we did two very different celebrations - a 9 am rock and soul worship with our killer band Stranger, and, a blended worship experience with a cracker jack choir, organ, etc. - all of which meant there was over 25+ hours of preparation, writing, practice, prayer, power point and other logistics for a Sunday morning honoring God's living grace.  And this did NOT include pastoral visits, hospital calls, institutional meetings, staff time and all the rest that a poppin' congregation demands (and deserves.)
Now I don't know if this overview made a difference to the bottom line of the stewardship drive, but I know it was revealing to people who had come to expect excellence without really understanding what that meant for worship.  It was eye opening for me, too.
Well, as I have returned thanks to God today for the life I have been given - and as I continue to bask in the blessings of last night's Thanksgiving Eve Festival of American Music and Poetry - I've been counting up all the time our volunteers give to make this concert possible year after year.  Somebody last night, for example, was stunned to find out that our top drawer sound man is a volunteer.  And as I started to tally it all up, there are a TON of people who each give something of themselves to make this fun, beautiful and successful - and they aren't all in the band!

+ First, let me give thanks to Rob Dumais and Paul Durwin who do the sound and video recording.  Paul works with me every week to put on our weekly TV show, "Sunday Street," (a 25 minute presentation of my Sunday message plus special music).  He and Rob once worked together in industry and now they share volunteer time at the local cable access TV station.  Rob hauls his sound board, monitors and speakers in to the Sanctuary on the Sunday before the show - a two hour set-up enterprise - and then spend another four hours getting all the microphones set up for our "dress rehearsal."  He also joins us for one more band practice (3 hours) and gives 4-5 more hours tweaking the sound balance, working out charts, etc. so that when we do the concert, everyone sounds their best (2 more hours.) 
Paul brings in three camera crews (2 hours recruiting), sets up a director's box and lays cable early in the week (about 4 hours of organizational time.) Like everyone else, he arrives at 5 pm for a 7:30 pm show, gets all his gear and volunteers ready to tape the concert - and then spends 3 hours breaking down his equipment after the show is over.  Finally he gives another 4 hours of clean up duty on the Friday after Thanksgiving to return the Chancel to a clean state and ready for Sunday worship as well as 4-5 hours of editing after the show is finished.  For Rob that is: 19-20 hours of volunteer time; for Paul that is 21+ hours and for the three person crew it is another 5 hours.  Total volunteer time for the audio visual volunteers = 56 hours.
+ Second, there is my sexton, David Grusendorf, who has to clean up the whole place before the gig and then make sure things are ready for worship afterwards.  David spends about 6 hours getting things ready, gives about 8 hours to the day of the concert and then another 10+ hours after the show is over.  Total hours from the sexton = 28.

+ Third, let's remember the publicity folk. I most often have secretarial help with bulletins from Becky (5 hours), poster-making (2 hours), poster distribution (5 hours from 2 volunteers) as well as press releases (4 hours.)  Our modest publicity effort, therefore, takes at least 21 hours of mostly volunteer time to bring this to pass.
+ Four there is the band:  this year there were a total of 25 performers.  For the gospel choir group, we had three weeks of one hour rehearsals plus a 2 hour dress rehearsal and four and a half hours the day of the show.  If people listened to the music prior to practice - and some clearly did - that's another 2 hours.  For our three songs that is 11+ hours.  For the solo performers who joined our band, there was one 3 hour practice and then another supplementary rehearsal of 2 hours plus 4 hours on the date of the show.  Add that to individual practice - 3 hours - and that adds up to 12 hours. Bring the core band, Between the Banks, into the mix and that's another 9 hours of group practice, at least 4-8 hours of individual practice and 5 hours on the day of the show.  Total band commitment for the TGE 2013 show = 37 hours of volunteer time.
+ And fifth, just for kicks, let me quantify my time for this show.  In August I start to recruit the performers for the late November gig; over the four months I put in about 15 hours of communication - email and phone calls - to make sure I know who is in and who cannot join us. Then there are the conversations in early September re: what tunes people want to work on - that's another 4-5 hours - followed up by finding 2-3 tunes that would work with our gospel choir - add 6 hours to research, finding You Tube and printed music links.  It takes me about 10 hours to create a set list - and revise, revise, revise.  It takes 4 hours to make sure we all have copies of the music and another 4 hours to map out the stage set up.  Already that is 47 hours of planning work before we ever get to practice; add equipment set up to the mix - 4 hours - dress rehearsal - 4 hours - weekly practice - 4 hours - personal practice - 10 hours - gathering goodies and drinks for the show - 1 hour - day of show participation - 5 hours - and after show clean-up - 3 hours and the grand total for my work on this gig = 77 hours.  
Total commitment to make this two hour show happen is... 225 hours (when you add in poetry search AND copy girl last minute tasks!) That is about eight and three-quarter days. Sometimes well-intentioned people say to me:  God, that was fun. We should do this every few months!  I smile and say:  I am so glad you had a good time - knowing full well that NOBODY has an extra 225 hours to chip in to make this gig happen more than twice a year.  There is a LOT of planning, sacrifice and hard work given by nearly 30 people to make it all look like grace.
Today is Thanksgiving and I am totally blessed by all the people who give so much of their time, blood, sweat, energy and gifts to this cause. I am also blessed by all the people in our community who have stopped to tell me how much they enjoy these gigs.  I hope this overview gives some context to the effort my team brings to the table to make these concerts happen.  
The other day, Di and I were in the grocery store when one of the baggers stopped me to shake my hand:Man, I really love your sermons... I watch you all the time on TV."  As we left, Di said, "That's why you do this stuff... right?  People get it."  It also made me realize how much effort goes in to putting our stuff out there for others to take in.  And today I wanted to celebrate their effort: it is huge!
Blessings abound... onward to our spring show! (Most pix by Leo Mazzeo and/or Dianne De Mott)

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