Pastor Mary Loring

Common Ground

I know I have told you all this before, but just in case you haven’t heard … I was a music major a very long time ago. I was a French Horn major and a vocal minor, working toward my Music Education degree. I played in bands and orchestras, and sang in choirs. Maybe that is why I am pulled to music and musical illustrations.

In Ari L. Goldman’s book, The Late Starters Orchestra, Ari in his later years has decided to play in an orchestra once again. The orchestra is made up of others like Ari who want to explore their musical side later in life. Ari has entered the rehearsal space for the first time, an old upstairs room used for rehearsals and drama practice; right next to him sprawls an upside down mattress with box springs sticking out all over. The conductor enters and begins playing an “A” on her violin. This simple act of tuning takes Ari back to a discussion in junior high, with his first music teacher,

“‘Ari, mein liebe,’ I heard my late cello teacher, Mr. Jay, say gently. ‘I speak German. You speak Hebrew. But if you speak Hebrew and I speak German we cannot understand each other. We must find a common language and that common language for us is the key of E, English. You understand, right? In music, like in language, we must find common ground. When an orchestra tunes, that common ground is A.’”1

This unifying action that all orchestras begin each rehearsal with got me to thinking about common ground in the Christian life and in faith communities. Common ground allows us to move ahead with unity – a harmony, you might say – that allows all to join in, offering their own unique gifts and creating a tapestry of glorious sound. What is the com- mon ground that each of us needs to establish within our faith community, our family, our work, and in our world? Is that common ground or unifying action between ourselves and another congregation member? Is it between us and one of our family members? Or, if we look at the much bigger Jackson picture, is it between other congregations in the same denomination going for the same goal, and yet not working together, but against each other to get there? Where is the missing common ground or unifying action, and what steps do we need to take to create the blissful harmony of being on the same page in the right measure with the right tempo?

As you go about your daily lives, listen for the dissonances. Where there is a note out of tune, gently tweak your communication, your approach, and your way of doing in order to find common ground and help everyone to be in tune. It may only take a moment or two of your time, but the long-term effects will help the community of faith to move forward into the future with unity and harmony, working together on common ground.

Pastor Mary Loring

1Ari L. Goldman, The Late Starters Orchestra (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014), 5.