I don’t like for people to hear me sing. I don’t do karaoke. It’s a sign that I really trust you if I sing with the radio with you in the car. But I love congregational singing.
I grew up going to church – church, not just Sunday school. Some of my love of church music may be nostalgia. I learned the hymns standing next to my mother and sister, while watching my dad in the choir. I can still hear Rev. Smythe’s gusto and certain hymns take me back to the congregation of Parker United Methodist Church. But there’s more than nostalgia in the music for me. It forms my faith. There is a sense of belonging in the music. It weaves among us and makes us into a community.
Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Guatemala where we made cooking stoves in homes. Teams of 2 or 3 from my church were paired with a mason with whom we worked the entire week. I was the only one on my team that spoke very much Spanish and our mason didn’t speak English. We found a common language on our second day in hymns. We sang some of our favorites to him, and he sang to us. With delight we discovered many hymns we all knew in both of our languages.
When I’ve gone through difficult times in my spiritual life it’s music, particularly congregational singing, that’s brought me back. I can’t sing alone. I need the support of the congregation to have any hope of finding the notes. The truth of music, deeper than mere words, carries me. Music holds together lament and trust, joy and doubt. When I’m in the congregation, even if my head is uncertain and my heart hurts, my soul sings.