One Good Thing
Lift Every Voice and .....
Above is a photo of the view outside the window of the house where I’m currently staying, on a quiet cove in Nova Scotia.
It could be the presence of this sweet church in my view that inspired me to seek out a church service to attend this morning — but my main motivation was that it was Sunday, and that’s what I tend to do on Sunday mornings.
I especially seek out churches when I travel; I just Google nearby houses of worship and choose what denomination I want to be on that particular day. I’ve been a Catholic in Rome and New York City, a Baptist in Salt Lake City, an Episcopalian in Washington, DC, and a Methodist in most other places.
This morning my Google search took me to a nearby cove, where I attended St. Timothy’s Church, one of several Anglican “St. Timothies” I noted on the map.
Half an hour later, I walked into to the small, unassuming, rustic space, took my place inside the tiny sanctuary, and found my own plain pinewood pew. There were about 30 people there — mainly elderly, grey-haired, and … very friendly. (It was so nice to be greeted with so many welcoming smiles.)
I scanned the front of the church — and as usual looked for the organ/piano and choir.
On Sundays my actual worship is of music. I learned to read music in church (age 6 or 7) and have sung in choirs ever since. I know well the hymns of most denominations and even when I’m visiting and not in the choir, I let these hymns fill me and feed me.
I guess my point is that scanning a sanctuary and not seeing a piano or organ is a bad sign. This usually means that someone will pull out a guitar.
(Sorry guitar lovers, but people who have suffered through guitar-worship sessions will back me up on this. Guitars make me want to go right back to bed.)
Back at St. Timothy’s, announcements concerning the life of this very tiny church were made, and then the service began.
We were instructed to turn to page 8 in our song booklets: “All Creatures of Our God and King.” A classic Anglican hymn. Soaring. Majestic. Only the lyrics were listed — no music to read. I looked around.
It was quiet for a moment.
Across the aisle, a silver-haired elder woman started to sing. And then everyone just joined in.
A capella — this tiny group sang loudly and beautifully through their Covid masks. Absolute perfection.
The sound in that church reminded me of “shape note” singing. Here’s a video demonstration of this particular style of singing, which seems uniquely American in its robust joy.
These congregants really made a joyful noise, and it was tuneful and beautiful and — while I think of these great Anglican hymns as being stately and complex — there is nothing quite as beautiful as the simplicity of just … singing.
The human voice: the most amazing instrument of all.
Anyone can sing.
I’ve known this for a long long time, and I’m always saddened when people say, “I can’t sing.” I’m grateful for my own worship tradition of singing together. Because when you sing with other people, you realize that you CAN sing. Other voices carry you.
[I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but you can click below to hear a really touching audio “postcard” I did for NPR during the depths of the pandemic, when our church congregation — and all congregations — were instructed not to sing. The story is less than two minutes long, and when I listen to it now, I’m reminded of all we’ve been through. I now think of this piece as the “The Whisper Choir.”]
Click here for the audio story from NPR
Which brings me to this:
Multi-hyphenate and painfully young musician Jacob Collier last month in Lisbon.
Watch this video of him performing “Queen’s” rollicking anthem “Somebody to Love” — and watch how seamlessly the massive audience spontaneously accompanies him.
Here’s another video of Collier gently leading — so so gently — another big crowd into lovely sung harmonies.
I let Google direct me into a tiny church high on a bluff on a random Sunday morning. And I left an hour later, filled to the brim and singing.
I hope you find reasons to raise your voice in song this week. And if you’re lucky, someone will sing with you.
So much to delve into. Thank you.
Why does this make me weep…..?