Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above
I have no idea what - or more likely, who - hymn writer John Fawcett was thinking of when he penned these words over 200 years ago. For me, at least, it speaks of people whose mere presence on the planet is a gift of grace, and a gift that continues on long after that person is no longer with us. It's rare that someone comes along that meets this lofty standard - but when they do from time to time, we give thanks to God and do our best to capture something of that person to share with others.
I guess that's the way I feel about Aimee Wallis Buchanan. She was a classmate of mine in my seminary years, and she was the husband of Bill, also a seminary classmate and long-time friend from my growing-up years in Raleigh (I still have fond memories of the two of us, and my Dad, with guitars in hand leading music for our Sunday night youth group gatherings at White Memorial). Aimee was also an amazing individual, gifted with a passion for ministry and a cornucopia of creative skills that probably never found their way into a single person before. Her most recent dream, Asheville Youth Mission, was a joint effort with Bill to bring those passions and skills together in their beloved mountain community.
This past January, Aimee died unexpectedly. We Presbyterians are well-connected in the social media world, and the communal sense of grief was palpable - for our personal loss, for Bill and their kids, for the church. We felt like a bright star had been snuffed out for all of us.
But then a conversation began. It started with my good friend David LaMotte and the kind of statement that can get people into trouble: So I have this idea.... A way to honor Aimee's life, to bring some sense of closure to our collective grief, and to support the vision Aimee was so passionate about at AYM. It felt good; it felt right. And it also needed Bill's approval. So we called Bill and shared the idea with him, and he loved it. Then we got to work.
The culmination of these conversations is A Life Well Loved: Remembering Aimee Buchanan. It's a compilation CD of various artists that came out of the conversations we had over the course of a few months. In Bill's own words from the album's Facebook page:
This is a project designed to honor the life of one who knew how to love well-- Aimee Wallis Buchanan. Her hospitality, compassion, and care for all God’s people, especially those on the margins of society, were an inspiration to many. Her love of the arts and her passion for youth ministry made a lasting impact on generations of young people.
Some of the artists on the album are regulars in the Presbyterian youth ministry world; others come straight out of the eclectic Asheville music scene. Two circles colliding in a way they probably never have before - which is appropriate, given Aimee's unique way of bringing together lots of different folks for a common purpose. Those artists, by the way, are: David Lamotte, The Secret B-Sides, Jeffrey Harper, Beth Williams, Peggy Ratusz, Jorge Sayago-Gonzales, Peggy Brown, Jerry Wallis, Rachel Pence, Josh Phillips, Heather Brown, the Asheville High School Band, and myself (and a special shout-out to Chris Rosser, who did a whale of a job mastering the final project).
And because its a hodge-podge of artists, the music itself is pretty much all over the map. Again, from Bill: There are a wide variety of musical styles included in the album-- from rock to folk, blues and ballads, and symphonic music as well. This only makes sense, because Aimee’s interests were wide and she was a welcoming presence for many different kinds of people, with diverse styles and ways of being in the world.
Even better - all proceeds from this album (a minimum $10 purchase, but you can pay more if you want) will go to support Asheville Youth Mission, helping to continue the dream she and Bill built together.
The release date is August 22nd - downloadable mp3 format only. My hope is that you'll mark that date down on your calendar and go check it out at: www.alifewellloved.org. For now, that URL takes you to the official Facebook page that you should "LIKE" and spread the good word to others. Because that's the kind of thing Aimee would've done: helping foster and grow those ties that bind, so the world can be a better place. And in this guy's humble opinion, it already is a better place, having had Aimee in it.