Rev. Susan Bock is not just any Episcopal priest. When I met her, she was an alto in the Rackham Symphony Choir with me. She was wonderful to sing with and be around, and I didn’t have to see her behind a pulpit to know what an awesome person she was and what a great friend she would become.
Then one day she confided in me: she wanted help with the music ministry at her church. She wanted to take it in a new direction, but couldn’t see where. I told her I was interested in sharing ideas and doing what I could. She accepted by inviting me to observe a service at her church.
Within a few months, I was hired on as music director. I had an interview with her and one of her vestry leaders — who said “That’s okay” as soon as I told her I was a witch.
Yes. I made sure in the hiring interview to let Susan know that I wasn’t Christian, that I had left the church years ago and now practiced as a pagan. My open disclosure of my faith did not prevent my hiring; rather it opened up what was to become an extraordinary relationship with Susan.
About a week later, Susan called me into her office for a conversation. She wanted to ask me why I left the church. She wanted to know how I came to my present place. She asked, “What happened?” And “How did we hurt you?”
These were the right questions.
Because she didn’t try to be an apologist or an evangelist, because she wasn’t trying to win me back to the flock, I felt comfortable enough to answer those questions with honesty and integrity. She respected my choice to practice within my own chosen faith system.
Susan also gave me creative freedom in my work. Even when she was in charge of selecting the music, she would allow me final veto and let me interpret things as I will. It helped that we had similar tastes in music, and we shared the same general ideas for ministering to congregations with music.
But all the things we had in common we enjoyed because no one let their faith get in the way.
At one point when I helped Susan get a projector to work, she laughed and said, “Your gods are better than mine.” And I never wore my pentacle to church. Instead, I wore a labyrinth medallion from the Episcopal Church online store — just as much a Goddess symbol as anything. Neither of us promoted our faith in each other’s face. Instead, we shared from the heart. And it brought us closer together as people, which is what spiritual life is supposed to do, if you ask me.
This is only the beginning of the story of how I chose to be an interfaith music minister.