30 October 2006

Singing The Faith.

n his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, Marion Hatchett considers the use of hymns in Christian worship and the profound effect they may have in the sort of Christians we become: “Hymns sing themselves into people’s souls and so become primary influences in the theology and spirituality of the worshiping congregation.” And this is indisputably so. Very often (and, I must admit, somewhat to my chagrin) when I meet with families to prepare for the funeral of a loved one, they will not have in mind particular passages of Scripture they would like read at the service (much less particular expositions of mine they would like to hear reprised!), but they will know exactly what hymns they want sung. In the time of crisis, in the time of grief, it is the music of the Church, its sung theology, that comes to mind as balm for the soul.

I have read that psychiatrists have concluded that it is the sense of smell that is most strongly associated, through the daedal synaptic pathways of our brains, with memory. A particular odor can take us right back to an exact place, time, and feeling from our childhoods. I think music works much the same way. And words of grace, when set to well-crafted music and sung over a lifetime’s Sundays, imprint themselves on the mind and form our hearts so that, when sung again, their truth – and our experience of that truth – becomes immediately present. Is that not why a large portion of Scripture is given over to that ancient hymnbook we call the Psalter? And is that not why, over and over again in the New Testament epistles, bits of the first Christian hymns peek through (see, for example, Eph 4.5,6; Phil 2.5-11; Col 1.15-18; 1 Jn 4.7-10)?

All of which is an overly long introduction to what I had intended as simple, heartfelt, and public “Thank you” to Sandi Hughes, our organist and choir director these last five years. As most of you will have heard by now, Sandi has tendered her resignation so that may she pursue other professional opportunities; November 5th will be her last Sunday with us. As members of the choir know even better than I, Sandi has been a pleasure to work with – talented, enthusiastic, cheerful, and flexible. Most especially I’m grateful for her deep faith and prayerfulness, and her concern that the music she plays and leads is not mere performance but actually enables worship; that is, that the choir’s anthems and the congregation’s singing take us to the throne of Jesus Christ, where we can join the ceaseless worship of “Angels, Archangels, and the whole company of heaven,” who forever sing the praises of our loving, merciful, thrice-holy God.

So, again: Thank you, Sandi.

Finally, I ask that all of you be in prayer for the Vestry and me as we arrange for short term fill-ins and seek a permanent replacement for this vital ministry.

*From the November issue of The Grail, our parish newsletter.


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