“Somebody play dammit!” And in that moment, I think we all prayed that somebody would in fact, play. Fortunately, when Scott gave the downbeat for the third time, somebody did play. The music started as it was supposed to, and the double brass quintet postlude with organ put the exclamation point on what had been a beautiful Easter morning service.
I don’t know who was responsible for “whiffing” on the first two downbeats Scott gave, but I’m glad it wasn’t me. I appreciated and loved working with Scott because of his intensity and high standards, but it was never fun to be the recipient of “the Scott look”. That special glare of irritated frustration he only gave to those whose who didn’t do what they were supposed to. “The Look” was not a good feeling.
By contrast, aside from those few rare appearances of “The Look”, being with Scott Weidler was always a good feeling. He was inspirational on many levels. As a church choir director working with amateurs, he inspired those around him to rise above themselves. As a teacher myself, I took note. He was a theologian, widening my view and showing me new perspectives. He was a thinker and a writer, he greasing the hinges that opened my mind and helped me grow. Beyond that, Scott gave me many opportunities and experiences that enriched my life.
Those things kept leading to others, and now some of the things I value most in my life, have their roots in Scott. My teaching was inspired by the way Scott motivated kids, giving them responsibility and treating them with respect. I learned how to out-organize problems from watching him manage huge services, conferences and events with many moving parts. I admired Scott for being a constant model of integrity, and an advocate for those who needed one.
I first met him at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Lancaster, PA, where I had just begun attending with my girlfriend (now wife). Those early years at Good Shepherd with Scott and Pastor Jerry Spice were some of the most formative of my life.
I was serving on church council the night Scott read us his resignation letter. He had gotten a job at the national church headquarters in Chicago, where his gifts could impact more people. When he finished reading the letter, nobody said anything. There was dead silence for nearly 30 seconds.
“Somebody say something!” Scott finally said. Some of us laughed. Some couldn’t find words. We all understood what we were losing, but we also knew that a tall tree can’t grow in a small pot.
Years later, we reconnected when Scott asked me play Easter services at Immanuel, his new church in Chicago. My family made the yearly trip several times, meeting many wonderful, new people. From there, Scott invited me to be part of the musical worship team for the ELCA Church-wide Assembly in New Orleans. Enter more rich experiences and excellent people, and the chain of Scott’s impact on me continues on from there.
Scott Weidler died this month of pancreatic cancer. I don’t think he was really interested in leaving a legacy, but he did. Often, as I’m going about my daily work or activities, I’ll notice Scott’s influence on what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. I’m sure there are many whom Scott effected in this way.
We probably all have people like Scott in our lives. They are impactful and important. We are who we are, in part, because of them. They are special.
Maybe we can show our gratitude to them by sharing our gifts with others, in the same way Scott shared his gifts with all who knew him.
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