Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


I read a great article that appeared in the online version of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a few days ago, that had a double bonus (it was written by one of my Facebook friends.) She talked about how she was not a "singer" in the "church choir" kind of sense, but she sang to herself all the time when alone. The key line that jumped out at me was this one:

"I think lots of people are like this–innately, even joyfully musical when they’re not feeling self-conscious, but at a loss when expected to perform musically."

It immediately connected me to a very recent discovery in my own parish.

In recent months, we have begun having Taizé services on a relatively once a month basis. I found myself surprisingly hooked. In all honesty, I was going along with the Taizé concept because our parish was kind of needing something to nudge the envelope of "that's how we've 'always' done it," and other people seemed interested in it, so I was more or less helping with it to support them. In the beginning, really, neither aspect of Taizé--the music or the silence--was totally attractive to me. As a rule, I don't like "7-11" music (seven words sung eleven times,) and although I am very good at being silent when I am alone, I am horribly, incredibly, absolutely self-conscious about being silent in groups. (When a group of people started a "centering prayer" group for a spell, I wished them well, and said, "There is no way in hell I am going to be involved in it because I am unable to sit still and be quiet in front of people--I was always the kid in school that made people giggle in "quiet time" without even trying.")

But I went to the Taizé community's web site in preparation for our first Taizé event, in the privacy of my own backyard, and my chiminea, and was utterly hooked. Maybe it was because my first experience WAS in the looming evening in the sacred space of my chiminea, and not at church, but as I played some of their podcasts of services, with the night falling around me, I found my ability to pray in the spaces of the music absolutely enchanting. Over the next few days, I started downloading the MIDI files, not just of the melodies, but of the tenor parts.

(Here's my dirty little secret: I am incredibly self-conscious about singing in public because I feel I was born with the wrong voice register for my gender. It's just another way people confuse me in the gender spectrum. I get called "Mister" on the phone all the time. In grade school and junior high, singing became messy for me. It became apparent that little girls with high voices attract the attention of music teachers more than ones with booming lower voices. Well, I take that back. They tell you they don't know what to do with you.)

But somehow, I get over my self-consciousness singing in church to a degree because it's not about me; it's about God.

So when we started doing Taizé, people wanted to use my skills as a prayer writer, or reflection writer. There just wasn't any discussion about the singing part as far as I was concerned. I think everyone figured I'd show up and not be scared TO sing in the service as a worshiper, but that was about it.

By about the 2nd Taizé service we did, I sat back in the back (because I was going to do the reflection and I wanted it to come from the back of the room, not the front, because this is about personal worship, not "led" worship) and I happened to be back there with our music director and a little handful of the "choir people." As the music started, I thought, "What the hell. I KNOW the tenor parts. I don't see many tenors here. Might as well sing 'em. If people think I suck at it, I will know."

What happened was kind of funny.

It wasn't exactly "being stared at en masse" but more like one at a time. One by one, various choir members and our music director kind of looked back at me with a surprised look...and not surprise like "Oh, my God, that's the worst thing I ever heard," either. More like "She can DO that?" More of a "pleasantly surprised" look. It was more "the joy of coming out of the musical closet."

The bottom line is, on Sunday, I'm happy to let the choir be the choir. My time constraints and my inability to read music fluently prevent me from having any major desire to be a regular part of that. But in the true spirit of why I love being our parish's "utility infielder," I came to learn I love being an actively singing part of the "smaller" services where only a few of the choir will be there. I feel I can get a base hit or two in a pinch and the sluggers can still be the sluggers. The reward is it has enhanced my church life and my personal prayer life. It's not unusual now to hear me singing to Taizé podcasts if you wandered into my "sacred space in the yard" time.

But it brings up a good point--what can we be doing as parishes to teach people new ways to pray? How do we use music to invite everyone to be a vital praying part of the community of believers, rather than use it as a divide to make those who are self-conscious with the musical parts of worship feel like "2nd class worshipers?"

It has made me notice the people who don't sing in church--and makes me ponder what beautiful prayer voices they might have if they were only unafraid to sing.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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