Sunday, November 16, 2008

Come Let Us Sing Together

Many people ask me why I go to church. I can tell that some people want to have an intense discussion about the benefits and disadvantages of weekly attendance, and I'm always happy to have that conversation. But some people just want a one sentence answer. I often say, "I go to church because it's one of the last places where people of varying talents sing together." I used to think of that as my sarcastic answer, but in the past few years, I'm surprised by how true it is.

A year ago, my friend had some relatives visit from Germany. Her cousin is in a community singing group, and I was startled to realize how few community singing groups remain in our country (and many that remain require the singer to have a professionally trained voice). My husband and I joined them for dinner at my friend's house, and after dinner, we sat around the dining room table singing. What a marvelous thing to be to sing the same songs.

Later, I thought about how incredible it is that people across a 20 year age range could sing the same songs. We'd all grown up in different parts of the world--how did we know this music?

And then I wondered how students today will learn to have songs in common. I went to school during the 1970's, and we had Singing as a subject in my elementary school. Just before lunch, we'd trundle into the music room and sing religious songs, folk songs, patriotic songs, songs from other countries, songs across a wide range of ideologies. As children these days prepare for standardized tests, I suspect that singing (and any number of other classes that encourage a love of the arts and creativity) has been sacrificed.

I also went to church as a child, which complemented my singing education. And I went to church camp, which had us singing throughout the day: hiking up a mountain to the dining hall is hard? Sing! I've learned these lessons well. When I need a mood boost, I sing. When I need to remember why I'm here on earth, I sing.

I sing a variety of things, but old spirituals move my mood the fastest. They remind me that my lot in life is luxurious, compared to what other people have endured. They give me a glimpse into the ways that people have reinterpreted Bible stories to have relevance to what they're currently experiencing. They remind me that God will get us through whatever trials fall down on our heads.

No comments: