Saturday, October 16, 2010

a community through song

A note to my congregation and others:

The 2007 European meeting of the Taizé community.
Group singing is found in practically every culture.  Even in our own American society, singing brings us together in a variety of ways.  What would a birthday party be without that well-known song?  What about the seventh inning stretch without “Take Me Out To The Ballgame?” 

Just like these occasions in our secular lives, the songs of the church bring us together with a shared identity.  We give one voice to our joys and sorrows and express our wonder and awe at the mystery that is God.

As we build our congregation’s own unique repertoire of songs, we can do more to sing as a community.  One way is to introduce songs to all occasions of church life. Several of the church boards already begin their meetings with song.  We have also added singing before church meals and special events.

During November, I’d ask you to consider yet another way to strengthen our communal song.  Research shows, however counterintuitive it may seem, that once a singer is more than three feet away from another that individual sings more quietly.  Once we start to feel isolated and hear primarily our own voice, we become self-conscious and withdraw.  When we are closer to others, we hear their voices and are more comfortable adding ours.

So what can we do?  It’s rather simple.  Consider sitting closer to others in worship.  Perhaps sit where the larger groups are during worship, or invite others to sit closer to you. Throughout this month, I’ll be encouraging us to gather closer together at the beginning of each worship service.   Perhaps you’ll even want to give up your traditional seat and seek out new places. You might even experience other parts of worship in a new way.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reading List - October 2010

A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice (The Practices of Faith Series)

Music and Theology (Horizons in Theology)

Music and Vital Congregations: A Practical Guide for Clergy1) Don Sailers' book on music and spirituality. Written with his daughter Emily Saliers, from the Indigo girls.  Don and Emily discuss family memories of how music shaped their spirituality.  Highly recommended reading!

2) Don Saliers' discussion of how music and theology impact each other.  Not a long book, but good concepts to have in mind when considering music for worship.

3) I don't agree with everything in this book. He acts like he appreciates all forms of music worship, but there is a definite slant toward classical music and traditional worship music.  What it does do well is a bring up the issue of pastoral musicianship; how church musicians should be trained and how clergy can help.

Friday, September 24, 2010

considering music and spirituality

I'll be leading a class on music and spirituality starting next month, so that's been getting me thinking about what it actually means.

I guess the questions to begin asking are:

How does music help define our spirituality?
How is music impacted by spirituality?
How can we use music to develop spirituality in congregations?
And most importantly, in the context of music, what is spirituality?

I recently heard a story from a Story Corps producer about an experience she had while doing an interview. And while she didn't speak specifically of this as something spiritual, it was hard not to feel it when she told the story.

One of her interviews brought her into contact with a 30 year old woman and her parents.  This woman was in hospice care suffering from terminal cancer and spent much of the 40 minute interview saying goodbye to her parents.  Toward the end of the interview, the producer said to the women that they had two minutes left in which she could record her personality for posterity.   To the producer's shock, the woman didn't tell a story or say anymore farewells.  Instead, she started singing "Summertime" from George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess."

The producer remarked that for the first 38 minutes, she sounded weak and frail, like a dying person, but for those last two minutes, her voice was strong and she sounded fully alive. Later the woman's parents would contact this producer again to tell her that their daughter had indeed passed away.  The used the recording of those two minutes of their daughter singing during her funeral service, and thanked the producer for drawing this out.

I was struck by the impact of this story.  So many times Story Corps has done this to me, but the idea of this young woman using her last recorded moments to express herself through song hit me even harder.  When simple words where not enough, she turned to music and the power of song which released her spirit in a way all the goodbyes in the world couldn't.