Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 23, 2019
By: David May
Originally, this reflection was to offer a word of encouragement for us all to sing out in church. But maybe I don’t need to. Last Sunday, we did sing out! Even with the ancient and probably not the best-known hymn of the Church, ‘I bind unto myself today’. It didn’t seem to matter. We all sang out – for seven verses!
I’ve made a small ‘thing’ about encouraging us to sing out. I found a piece in a church newsletter from years ago that speaks to why I think congregational singing is important in the Episcopal tradition. I thought I’d share a portion of it with you:
“We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them. If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Episcopalians, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other. I do believe this, people: Episcopalians, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they’ll talk to you. And if you are hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad.”
When we sing together, ‘we promise that we will not forsake each other’. What a beautiful thought. When we sing out together, we are saying, ‘don’t worry, you’re not on your own, I’m joining in too, I won’t leave you hanging’. Isn’t that what we hope Christian community is like? Doesn’t our world need a little more of that same spirit?
So, let’s sing out together, especially raising our voices in praise for the One who has promised to never forsake us either.