I’d miss the singing

Pastoral Messages | February 5, 2020

There is a lot about middle school I have, admittedly, forgotten. But some of my most vivid remaining memories come from Mrs. Johnson’s sixth-grade choir class.

At Edison Middle School in Champaign, Illinois, every student was required to take a semester of chorus. Whether you sang perfectly on pitch or completely off-key, whether you were an alto or bass or had no idea the difference between the two, for at least part of the year, every student was required to sing.

To this day, I can listen to Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” and immediately be taken back to my 11-year-old self, learning to read sheet music with 30 of my peers and one very patient teacher. We were definitely not a Grammy-award winning ensemble, but we sure felt like one as we sang along with the karaoke tracks of Houston’s hits.

I was not blessed with particularly musical genes. Singing is not in my DNA. But that class required me to at least try to sing. To do something I wouldn’t otherwise have been inclined to do.

This class came to mind the other day when a friend of mine asked an intriguing question: What would you miss if you never took part in worship at a church?

It took me awhile to respond. I thought about all the incredible people I would miss seeing. Or receiving Holy Communion, being reminded of God’s grace. Or the constant challenge to grow in my faith. But I settled on this answer: singing. I’d miss the singing.

If it weren’t for church, where else would I sing? Out loud. With other people! Unless you happen to participate in a choir, or you’re a chorus teacher yourself, when would most of us have the chance to sing, but in the shower or the car?

More than the singing itself, when I join with this blessed collection of imperfect musicians each week, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone. It does not come naturally to me to choose to sing out loud, in close enough proximity that others might actually hear me. And yet, I do it. Every single week.

Maybe singing is joyfully effortless for you. But there’s something about being part of worship that requires all of us to move outside of what’s comfortable. It might be embracing generosity, this counter-intuitive idea that we ought to give away that which we’re prone to hold on to.

Or it could be taking the initiative to introduce yourself to others you don’t know—which can seem daunting at times. Or seeking to understand scripture in new ways, even when the Bible can often be confusing. Or interacting with others who might think or look differently than ourselves.

I don’t know what you might miss if you weren’t part of worship in some regular way. But I hope it would have something to do with stepping outside of your usual comfort zone. Thank goodness we have a faith that challenges us to try new things. To listen. Embrace. Learn. And… maybe even sing.

-Katy Warren, associate pastor


13 Comments on “I’d miss the singing”

  • Marcia Willi

    February 7, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    I love this message, Katy..its one of my greatest joys is the singing. On my freq.absences from church, that is one thing I miss, the congregants voices lifted in praise to our Lord! Even though I may not do so well @ times.

  • Don Garrison

    February 7, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Our ELC Lutheran Church here in Florida did something new last Sunday. Rather than saying the Lords Prayer, the entire congregation sang it . It was beautiful. The pastor says that the congregation now wants this in each service. I’ll bet St. Paul would love it also, I know Katy and I would.

  • Birgit Maass

    February 7, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Very insightful Katy, thanks for sharing. Flute paying or other musical instruments are a gift and you share that with the congregation from time to time. I tried clarinet and piano, couldn’t master either. My singing leaves a lot to be desired but as my sister posted here, Ethel sang proudly, off key and encouraged us all to do the same. 🙂

  • David Chamberlin

    February 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Love this! As one of your organ builders and a professional church musician myself, this is indeed music to my ears. And I love the comment above: “God doesn’t care what your voice sounds like; He just likes to hear you.” Amen, amen, and amen!

  • Rick Beorkrem

    February 7, 2020 at 12:13 am

    I have had a similar thought, too, about how I would most miss the singing. Thank you for sharing.

  • Meg Knapper

    February 6, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    I learned to “pray” in The Augustana Choir. God and I speak best when I’m singing.

  • Duane Haas

    February 6, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks for this message. I am pretty sure my singing is a frightening experience for everyone, but I give it a go anyway. We make our own joyful noises.

  • Kristine Dohrmann

    February 6, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks Katy for lifting up the glorious singing in worship. I am not a gifted singer but in community with God’s beloved, together we make a joyful noise.

  • Naomi Hanson

    February 6, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    I get to sing as loud as I want with so many voices around me. It is a great celebration for me! And an additional way to express my faith. Plus, the organ is such a tremendous asset!

  • Rosita Tendall

    February 6, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    A very LOUD Amen!

  • Stella Herzig

    February 6, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Beautiful realization Katy! We had a friend who sang devotionally with a great voice, but she always encouraged others to sing too, saying it is not what the voice sounds like that pleases God in a hymn, but what the heart is feeling as you sing!

  • Anke Maass

    February 6, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    When you talk about not having singing in your DNA….I think of an elderly lady that was just bad at singing but told many of us…God doesn’t care what your voice sounds like He just likes to hear you. I think of her often when anyone in my family says something about not singing!
    It makes me sad when I see young people sit in the pew and not participate at all….I wonder if they think they don’t have the right voice as well…..

  • Rikka Stewart

    February 6, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    LOVE this, thank you for sharing.

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