The “Bridge Over Troubled Water” Of Ministry

In reading David Browne’s Fire And Rain, a musical & cultural exploration of the pivotal-but-overlooked year of 1970, I learned some interesting factoids about Simon & Garfunkel’s iconic Bridge Over Troubled Water.

For example, did you know that Simon originally wanted a shorter, quieter song without the “Sail on silver girl . . .” verse which brings it to its anthemic conclusion?

Or did you know that the stress of writing and recording the entire album ultimately led to S&G’s breakup?

Or most interestingly, did you know that when it came to Bridge, Paul Simon wrote the lyrics, composed the melody, oversaw the arrangements . . . and then handed it all off to Art Garfunkel for the vocals? He knew that Garfunkel’s crystal clear, impossibly high sound could bring home the song much better than his own quietly ironic voice.

How is that like ministry?

When those of us in pastoral ministry get it right, we cast the vision, plow the ground, make the arrangements, and then allow people in the church actually to carry out the ministry . . . which they can often do better than we do.

It’s as true for praying over the sick as it is for planning a pot luck. It’s as applicable to counseling the grieving as to stuffing envelopes.

My most rewarding moments as a pastor come when people take a raw idea of mine and then launch it miles further than I ever could.

In other words, when they take a Paul Simon melody and turn it into an Art Garfunkel masterpiece.

Speaking of which: