As a Choir Member…

As a new member to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church here in St. Paul, I am privileged to talk about my experience as a member of church choir.

I am Stephen Michael Shearer, an author and lecturer of film and film biography. I live in Woodbury, Minnesota, with my spouse of 42 years, Michael Wickman, who also sings tenor along side me in our choir. I graduated from university 51 years ago next month and hold a B.S.E. degree in both vocal and instrumental music, a minor in psychology. As a musician, at university I played cello and string bass in orchestra, French horn, baritone, tuba, and concert bass in band, my declared instrument voice. I was also my college’s drum major. After graduation, I accumulated post-graduate hours in theatre arts. In high school, college, and regional theatre, I performed in several musical productions, including Verdi’s Ernani, with the great Ghena Dimitrova, in Dallas. For many years in Tulsa, Dallas, and New York, I modeled and acted professionally on television, stage, and in film.

We moved from Dallas to New York in 1982 when Michael accepted a VP position in IT technology with Citibank/Citigroup. That move was a major awakening for me not only professionally and socially, but spiritually as well. Born and raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, as a 9 year-old I was baptized into the Northern Baptist Church (there’s a difference, so I’ve been told). When the family moved to Arkansas in 1962, I attended the Baptist church well into my teens, until I came to question many personal and spiritual dilemmas. I drew away from religion. From the late 1960s until the 1980s, still maintaining my faith, I only returned to church for weddings and funerals.

Because of the devout faith and religious convictions of my spouse Michael, in New York we became members of the vitally prominent Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church at the intersection of East 54th Street and Lexington Avenue in midtown. I had begun work in corporate America, heading up various desks, my last with American Express/Morgan Stanley. Because of what I observed at Saint Peters, my thoughts on religion began to radically change. Perhaps maturity came into play; I don’t question it. But I embraced the words of Jesus Christ, observing firsthand the work of the church within the community, its commitment to helping others. I began experiencing the fulfillment of God’s love.

We also were members of Saint Peter’s magnificent choir for over 20 years, lifting our voices in challenging music under the direction of Dr. Thomas Schmitt. We recorded many of our performances with full orchestras on CDs and joined in innumerable social and important community events held at our church. Saint Peters became our primary social life. When 9/11 occurred, our choir fervently banded together in faith, lifting our voices, and sharing our hearts and tears in far too many memorial services for those who had perished in our New York Community. Faith and trust pulled us through those first difficult post-9/11 days.

Michael and I moved from New York to Minnesota in 2008. As an only child having grown up in Wisconsin, Michael needed to care for his parents in their final years. He was easily able to transfer to home office. My writing career was then just taking off, my second book was about to be published, so we settled here in the Twin Cities. Originally for several years, we were members of a Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and sang in its choir. We transferred later to St. Mark’s Cathedral before becoming members here at St. John’s the Evangelist. We are blessed to have been welcomed into the choir under the competent and dedicated leadership and direction of Richard Gray. Singing in the choir brings us unexplainable joy and an emotional fulfillment which is difficult to put into words. It also gives us community and the chance for spiritual union with our fellow choir members and congregants.

We often quietly acknowledge to each other that when we are not present on Sunday at the Lord’s house, there is something inexplicable that is missing in our lives throughout the rest of the week. As new congregants of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, and both members of our choir, there is a settled calm and a fulfilling, exciting sense of discovery now in our spiritual journey.

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