Craig was tall, bald, and quiet. He had been visiting our services for a few weeks when I approached him in the church foyer.
“I’m been so glad you’ve been coming to our church,” I said. “Somebody just told me that you play the piano.”
A little shy, I thought.
“Would you want to play for us, sometime?” I asked.
“Um… I don’t know. Not everybody likes how I play.” He said.
Ah, he lacked confidence.
“Well, we’re pretty easygoing around here,” I coaxed him. “If music is your gift, perhaps this is a safe place for you to express it.”
“Um… well maybe. I’ll think about it.”
I didn’t push him further. I didn’t want to scare him off.
However a couple of weeks later, when the regular pianist didn’t show up, I found Craig sitting in a pew a few moments before the service was to start.
“Craig, my pianist just called and said she can’t be here today. I know it’s a lot to ask but do you think you could step in for her?”
He sighed thoughtfully, then said, “Um… sure. I can do that.”
I was taking a risk. I mean, what if he was terrible? But I had a feeling he would be okay. And if he wasn’t, well… that’d be okay, too.
I stood up to start the hymn. I raised my arm and then lowered my hand to give the downbeat. And that’s when Craig exploded all over the piano.
He played a rock-em-sock-em, gospel, boogie woogie version of “Standing on the Promises” that our little group had never experienced before. At the end, he ran his fingers down the keyboard in a grand glissando, followed by a final wham on the base note.
The congregation was delighted and I was flabbergasted. Who was this guy and where did he come from?
It turns out that Craig was not only an extraordinary musician, but also a social worker, a child and adolescent counselor who saved lives, and an intellectual with many interests. I don’t know why he chose to come to my church but I’m glad he did because he went on to become my friend and mentor.
He shared many extraordinary things with me that I’ll be sharing here.