I joined the church choir about a month ago. There was an open email invitation from our music pastor, and I decided to step into the soprano section, despite my nerves and most recent experience dating back 20 years. I have to stand close to strong second sopranos because harmony is not my forte (see what I did there?). Plus the time commitment for rehearsals always made me hesitate.
I sang in my high school choir, even taking voice lessons and participating in music contests. I was in my college choir for a couple of years and loved acting in musicals (I have more style than actual vocal talent, so the stage served me well). But now at 40 years old, I decided it was finally time to join the church choir.
My dad, who passed away when I was five, was a music minister. He and my mom sang all of the time, and music was a central part of who they were. My mom jokingly said, years later, “Why are none of my kids in choir?!”
So even though she’s not here to see it, I joined, burgundy choir robes and all. And I know she’d be proud.
Learning More Than Harmony
My opinion of the choir ministry hasn’t always been a positive one. I don’t know why I was so apathetic because choir specials often pierced me right in the heart, softening it for the sermon to come. The harmonies and instrumentals often brought a message I needed to hear. The crescendos and decrescendos, along with the lyrics, strengthened my faith. And our church has stellar musicians, both vocal and instrumental, including a full orchestra – watching people do things well is always inspiring to me.
But I’d forgotten how difficult choral singing is. The sopranos don’t always sing melody. You can’t breathe when you want to like you can in congregational singing (though I squeeze in a quick breath here and there). There are strong ending consonants, long vowels and artistry to communicate the important words – kind of like writing.
Plus, a funny thing has happened since I joined choir. I’m not only enjoying the creative aspect of being a choral student again, I’m being ministered to.
And do you know what the first song was that we sang after I joined the choir?! God is Always Good. I could barely contain my emotions during rehearsal. Surely a gift from a God, who knows I’m living my life seeking desperately after His goodness even when days are hard!
From the back of the sanctuary, my sweet, proud husband recorded my choir debut on his phone. I hope he couldn’t see my knees shaking. My feet were hurting (I didn’t know we stood that long!?) and I was so hot in those robes, but I think that was a needed distraction so I wouldn’t make a spectacle of myself crying in front of the whole church my first time in choir.
And I know these songs aren’t only a special gift from God to me. Just a few weeks ago, our music pastor passed on a message from a church member who emailed him and wrote (and I paraphrase): “The choir special was a blessing that really pointed me to scripture that addresses my biggest spiritual need at this time.” I’m sure this isn’t an isolated event.
A Seat with a View
Just this week, I received another gift while in the choir loft. Our pastor started the service with a testimony from an out-of-town guest – it’s unusual to include this especially during a morning service, but our pastor was moved to do so and I’m so thankful he did.
A young man came to the podium, a plaid shirt and jeans and neatly shaven goatee. His wife and young daughters sat in the pew with our pastor’s wife. He knew of our ministry from our online presence, listening to sermons often and praying he’d get enough money to come visit our church someday.
The guest apologized for not being a public speaker, but the next few minutes the congregation was gripped with his story. He had been living life of adventure and self-driven pleasure. He had been homeless, he told us, train hopping from one adventure to the next. When he first met his wife, he pulled her into that lifestyle of “adventure,” one that included drugs and alcohol.
Three years ago, he continued, he was at the end of himself. He knew death was imminent if something didn’t change, but he didn’t know how. He cried out to God in desperation. Then, he said something that surprised me. Instead of talking about the goodness and mercy of God, he spoke of His holiness. Through tears, he described how he was struck by the beauty and terror of it.
He was driven to his knees by the holiness of God. By seeing God’s perfection and his own need for forgiveness. And our congregation was captivated by his testimony – there was barely a dry eye in the house.
After he sat down, the congregational hymn was Holy, Holy, Holy. From the choir loft, I watched this young man hang his head and fight back his own tears as we sang of God’s holiness – this young man’s loving, forgiving, holy God. His head hung low not out of sadness or fear, but out of humility and gratitude. Oh, how my heart was challenged to not forget the holiness of God!
Finding My Voice
Six years ago, I lost my voice following a major surgery on an aneurysm in my neck. Doctors didn’t know if the damage was temporary or permanent. It was a painful few months of croaking out words, worrying if I’d ever be able to sing to our then-infant son or project lines on stage again. Slowly, my voice healed.
I’m thankful for the step of faith I took into that choir room – I’m seeing things from a new perspective. There are two major takeaways I’ve discovered through my new venture, and I hope to encourage you to do the same:
1) Give feedback to your hardworking ministers and church volunteers to let them know how much you appreciate their ministry. They aren’t doing it for peoples’ praise, but it sure is nice to know their work is not in vain. Let them know how their ministry points you back to God and His truths.
2) Try something new even if you’re an old dog learning or re-learning new tricks. You may find a new, creative outlet or fill a need you didn’t know existed.