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St Barts Blog

Making Music in a New Normal

by Tim McLellan on May 11, 2020

Psalm 100 begins, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.”

In case you hadn’t noticed, the choir at St. Bart’s didn’t “choir” as usual this Easter. We haven’t gotten together as normal since March 8. That’s a long time for a group who spends so much time focusing on togetherness—breathing, vowels, consonants, cutoffs, phrasing, message. For me, I’m frustrated. I miss going into the choir room on Thursday nights and seeing what new music awaits me in my folder. Do we have one that I’ve sung before? Is it one of my favorites? Are we getting something brand new that I’ve never sung before? What’s the message? Is it scriptural? Is it a poem? What is the service music for Sunday? I want to lift my voice with the rest of you and come into his presence with singing.

So how do I make sense of what’s going on? Years ago at a Royal School of Church Music summer course in Rhode Island, the kids and staff had a conversation with clergy about “Sacred Space”. What makes a space holy? Where can we worship God? The short answer is we can worship God anywhere and everywhere, not just in the sanctuary on campus. I’ve had to spend some time rethinking my perceptions and habits. Can I make music and worship God here in my small studio apartment? Can I do that in the alley behind my place, sitting in front of my neighbor’s palm tree to sing the Hosanna for Palm Sunday? Can I be a part of a worship experience staring into a small black dot on my iPhone while I sit in shorts on my couch rather than being vested in the sanctuary? The obvious answer, one that is so obvious that I wonder how I missed it, is “yes”. Yes. YES! Of course, I can! I can make a joyful noise here! I can come into His presence with singing, as He is present everywhere!

So we move forward in this new reality. Our church is transforming itself. We are transforming ourselves. We are finding a way to be involved, to be creative and think outside the box, to come together in unity even when we can’t come together physically. And eventually, there will be a time when we come back together on campus. There will be a time where new music is in the folder. There will be a time where the choir comes together to make music, focusing on breathing, vowels, consonants, cutoffs, phrasing, message. I am counting the days. Only He knows the number.

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