What a curious blend of lovers and strangers, Jews and Christians, gay and straight, actors, artists, writers and aspiring musicians! I often wondered if we had met under different circumstances or in different times - would we ever have become a community? During those cold winter days, a gradual dull aching pain of increasing personal isolation signaled the spiritual changes taking place inside me and within our community. For the first time in my life, I came face to face with the pain and isolation that had driven me for so long. I felt like God was breaking me in the crucible of our common life together. It was like a marriage to which I came - ragged and burned by the world, lonely and searching for alternatives. I was thrown into this amazing experiment to live out a disciple’s life alongside other human beings. It was a very rich experience yet also a very tortuous one.
Still, God took our rag-tag, mixed up, dysfunctional band of gypsies and nurtured something very special within us – a gift of music. As we grew in our faith, the tenor of our nightly “meditations” underwent a metamorphosis. We had slowly been collecting exotic instruments, which were beautiful to look at but which we had no idea how to play. Nevertheless, we brought them to our evening sessions and impromptu music was born. Maybe that was better? With no preconceptions, I could just as easily rap on the wooden sides of my harp as I might use a bow across a bass string or randomly pluck strings. Each night we came together with open hearts and souls to spontaneously experience whatever might happen. And each night God provided a musical event, a symphony with a storyline, characters, and whole songs woven into an impromptu experience that left me in awe of its birth. It was a perfect, dissonent, sometimes eerie musical experience. It was the kind of occurrence that is difficult to translate into words. This was not the “singing in tongues” we later experienced in our travels throughout the Church (where everyone sings melodies or notes, usually in a major key). It was as if thousands of angel’s voices were joining and pouring through our own, like several Mellotrons being played simultaneously in different keys - the sound liquid, dynamic, fluid, ever changing. To listen to a Loft session, click here.
I vividly remember one night when we "traveled" into the Old Testament... along a hot, dusty road in Ancient Egypt, with the sounds of a donkey’s hooves and cooking pots clanging together as they rocked back and forth on the donkey’s back. Another night we were adrift on a foggy sea in an ancient wooden boat, groaning and creaking as it lifted up and down on the swelling waves, a bell tolling far off in the distance. We were part of a living, breathing unrehearsed story – a symphony of souls. God handed us each separate parts yet no one knew what was going to happen. The music came from somewhere else and we were the instruments being played.
What an unusual experience! Ten people all hearing, seeing, being in the same place, knowing what was occurring and relishing the journey. Then it would end - cleanly, perfectly and at that moment each of us would know it was over. Afterwards, we’d reflect on it with amazement or laughter, wondering at how dry and hot the road had seemed and marveling at the sounds we’d heard. It was a gift from God.
Some of the Symphony began to prophesy during the evening sessions. As others were having these revelations, I felt increasingly uncomfortable - like Bert Reynolds in the movie “Semi Tough.” [All his friends experience spiritual bliss and rebirth but no matter how hard he tries it keeps eluding him.] I wasn't "getting it" and it was frustrating! Why wasn’t I seeing angels or suddenly speaking God’s word? Annoyed and discouraged, one evening I walked over to nearby Grace Church on Fourth Avenue and curled up on a stone bench in a corner of the courtyard.
I closed my eyes to meditate and quiet my racing thoughts. After awhile I started to pray asking, “Are you there God? Please, if you are there, let me know you are real.” I tried to empty my mind of negative thoughts. Suddenly, I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace wash over me. It felt like a soft, warm infusion of lightness. All anger, all sadness, all questions were swept away and I was left with this deep abiding peace. Sitting there I realized, there is a God and He loves me and cares for me. Though I had prayed for many years, this was the first time I felt God’s presence within me. I was deeply moved and sat there awash in God’s peace. Although God touched me, I did not, at this point, realize Jesus as my savior – that would come later. But for now, baby steps…