I recently wrote a piece for Humane Pursuits, in answer to their call for posts on community. I’m persistently, unceasingly thankful for our church community at Christ the King. And, I think some of the reason that we have grown to be who we are is because of our musical culture (mostly thanks to our priest, Fr. Wayne McNamara):
At my husband’s big 30th birthday party, we sang the Doxology before eating, like we normally do in our church community. Later, a musical friend, dependable for understatements, dryly observed: “I like how we just sang the best rendition of the Doxology in the the greater Ohio area and it wasn’t any big deal.”
We sing together a lot — not because our congregation is composed of vocalists; we’re actually extremely average. Instead, our church has slowly grown a musical culture because of our priest, who insists that the “congregation is the choir” (we are high church Anglican; so, for example, our “sung service” includes a lot of chanting and difficult hymns without time signatures). To make this work better, we hold occasional hymnsings to learn harmonies and ease the awkwardness of new song introductions.
I’m the music director, which means that I clunk out the hymns on our piano and sing the melody as boldly as I can. At first, this was really hard for me and I had to lay down a good bit of self-consciousness and pride. In American culture, one’s voice is very personal. I was used to playing in worship bands and singing into microphones, which made me sound better. It took a bit of swallowing to sing in the way that is best for my congregation. I have to be that church lady: projecting and challenging my alto to reach the high notes for the sake of a strong melody.
As time has gone on and I’ve stopped thinking so much about my personal sound, I’ve probably become a better singer. But I’ve come to realize that this act — this forgetting of myself for the sake of the whole — is the core of real community. And, thankfully, we’re all doing it together. I think we’ve all realized that our service is much better when we purposely forget ourselves and sing heartily.
To finish reading, click over to Humane Pursuits...