Beloved Friends- the words below are from an article I wrote over 15 years ago when I was still a fairly new priest. As I read them today in the context of our worship life together at Trinity, they make me smile even more and strengthen my conviction. We have a fabulous music ministry here at Trinity with a gifted Director of Music & the Arts in Nate Leonard, a stunning and growing choir made up of a diverse collection of singers of all ages and backgrounds as well as a growing number of instrumentalists willing to add to the depth and breadth of what we offer each week. With each new year we are expanding our range of what we offer and are continually pushing the boundaries to explore what it means to offer music to the glory of God.
How Can We Keep From Singing:
The importance of music in building a faith community
I was 5 years old when I learned about the importance of music in church. It was my first year in the very youngest choir in the First Presbyterian church and I was given a solo verse in The Friendly Beasts. Through those few measures of singing all alone within that very supportive community I experienced a sense of belonging and purpose, and I knew I would want to come back again and again.
It was through music I was invited fully into the church and it is still through music that I find my way back week after week, year after year. Whether it is listening to a small group of stalwart singers in a struggling church trying to do their best with no choir director or piano, or the elegant sounds of a cathedral organ and choir, it is in those moments that I experience the in-breaking of Christ among us most emphatically.
Even more so do I experience what it means to be the body of Christ when we all are gathered into the divine and holy moment of making music together. It is from the moment we start our times of worship,
the fabric we weave together as we prepare first to listen and receive the Word,
and then move to the Table and prepare to make Eucharist together.
And then, finally, it is music again that completes our time together by sending us out into the world to do and be the work that Christ has blessed and given us.
Music has long been thought of as a “universal language” and nowhere is that perhaps truer than in the church; the church that has been deemed as the only organization that exists primarily for those who are not yet members!
Music is often the topic of discussion in church leadership groups and the most common “dilemma” involving the style and “flavor” of music desired by the membership. Sadly, what is often forgotten in these very real debates is that some of our most important conversation partners are not yet with us; those who have not yet found their way into this irresistible place we call our spiritual home.
To that end, we may best be served by spending time remembering and wrestling with questions about mystery, invitation and inclusion. What kind of music feeds the soul and captures the imagination of those outside our walls? The brilliance of this answer is that there is no one right answer! But it is in attending to that question that we will embrace the power and promise of music to invite, engage and enliven the lives of our members as well as those who dare to cross the threshold and give church a try.
Last week the choir, scholars and instrumentalists were back in full force creating the “soundtrack”(did you know we create a “jukebox track” after each week?) for our worship helping us lift our voices together; how wonderful it was to have everyone back after a much-deserved break following Christmas. I have missed their musical reminders there is no one way, or right way to worship- no one style of music or set of words cornering the market to ignite our hearts for the sake of the Gospel.
So, thank you Nate and all our musicians for being God’s love and messengers in our midst. Your excellence and passion are outdone only by your constant presence and faithful witness leading us each week into evermore glorious moments marked by mystery, awe and wonder.
So, if you have been thinking about joining choir, or sharing instrumental gifts, now would be a great time to step forward and give it a try by contacting Nate at Nate@trinitytoledo.org! Know that in that sharing there is always a double blessing; you will bless us as well as knowing the joy of making a joyful noise in a community that truly (and gratefully) cannot keep from singing!
May you never forget that you are loved,