The Art of Slowing Down to Say Thank You

Avery Schott

 A Reflection by Avery Schott,

Oftentimes, each of you are emailing me with the privilege and honor of highlighting your ministries within the church and the wider community. As I receive your entries and begin the process of proofing, formatting, posting to the website, and sending out our newsletter, I am fortunate enough to learn about each of your journeys  in a deeply engaged way. Each of you tells a unique story and speaks to building a community that supports our neighbors, seeks justice for all, and works for a peaceful society. 

Our E-psitle features the saying “A Lens into the Life of the Church ” because I believe in the power of seeing, valuing, and supporting everyone who helps to make St. Luke’s the vibrant community in the heart of downtown Portland.

Many parishioners have come up to me recently to ask about my background in music. I was fortunate enough to study Vocal Music  in my undergraduate college days at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

If you walk into my office you can see a photo of which was taken with the church choir that I had the privilege to direct in downtown Indianapolis. Much likeSt. Luke’s, , the church which I served at in Indianapolis was located at the heart of community outreach work in an urban area with high amounts of need. Many parishioners were active in ministries which required commitments both of their time and their hearts. The choral program was no exception as several of the singers in the group had ties that extended back generations within their family. 

Having grown up in an active Episcopal music ministry in Connecticut, I was excited to bring music that I loved dearly to a choir that had not experienced much of this repertoire. One such piece was “Geistliches Lied” Op. 30 by Johannes Brahms. This remains one of my all time favorite choral pieces to both conduct and sing in the original German. Some choir members, particularly aforementioned members who had sung for decades in the group, felt strongly opposed.

I remember that as I conducted the first rehearsal of the piece, these singers refused to sing if we did not use the English translation provided. This made me feel upset and baffled as to how they could possibly feel so strongly about singing the piece in this way. 

I drove home in a sour mood, focused only on how I could find a way to convince these folks to join my vision. I walked in the front door of my home and spoke to my roommate about the situation. He noted, “Avery, each of these choir members have been pushed by you to grow musically in ways that they haven’t been asked to in years. When was the last time you thanked them for going on this journey with you?”

The more I reflected on how to respond to him I knew that he was right. 

That evening I hand wrote 30 individualized thank you notes to place on their chairs prior to Sunday morning. What came forth from this experience was the ability to build a healthy and thriving choir which valued active listening and communication, support of one another, and a strong sense of community where we could be vulnerable with one another and grow together.


Sometimes in working with others, we become so busy and focused on the task at hand that we forget to slow down and appreciate those around us. Saying thank you requires taking this pause and appreciating the gifts that each person brings to the table in the midst of what can feel like a chaotic world. 

As I sat in reflection this week of all the tasks at hand, I realized that I have not taken the opportunity to express my gratitude to each of you.

In short, thank you for inviting me into your community and helping me to grow on my journey. I look forward to continuing alongside each of you as we build towards the future together and look forward to continuing to tell and celebrate your stories. 

With kindness,

-Avery Schott

Parish Administrator and Cathedral Communications Specialist