Simon’s Says ~ from Alan

Yesterday Diane Adams and I conducted the monthly service at Chesterfield’s.  It is a crowd that definitely likes to sing, so we always make sure there is plenty of music; Diane brings her guitar, and I my violin.  Sometimes we sing old favorites, other times we celebrate nearby holidays or celebrations with song.

Yesterday was the latter times two.  Even though it is still three weeks away, we sang a handful of Thanksgiving tunes:  We Gather Together, Come Ye Thankful People, Now Thank We All Our God - as well as a couple requests like Bringing in the Sheaves and All Good Gifts.  (Well, we attempted Sheaves anyway; without having the music in front of us it was a difficult song to conjure by ear.). But we also observed a closer holiday and celebrated Veterans’ Day a few days early.  Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America were among the favorites.  I’ll admit, there is a part of me that is reluctant to sing hymns to the nation when we are supposed to be focusing on God, but the crowd so enjoyed the music that I figured anything we sang in worship yesterday was meant in a spirit of praise.

A former music director I worked with also plays monthly services at a local nursing home.  I once picked his mind about what folks like to sing in his services and his response was, “Everything!”  He plays things like I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, On Top of Old Smokey, This Old Man, Take Me Out to the Ballgame and whatever else comes into his head.  It didn’t matter if the music wasn’t “churchy,” it only mattered that people knew the words, because they loved to sing regardless.

There is an important lesson in this, one I’ve lifted up before:  church is one of the few opportunities we have to sing together.  And people like to sing together.  We may or may not have good voices, but in ensemble, we don’t need to be vocalists, we just need to make music.  I think this explains the popularity of things like Sea Chantey night at the Gris, or those churches that sponsor nights like “Hops & Hymns” or some such at the local.  A Boston sportswriter once suggested it was time to stop singing “Sweet Caroline” during the 7th inning of Sox games, a long-entrenched tradition, and he was nearly tarred & feathered.  Because people like to sing, and song brings us together in a way few other things do.

It has often been said, “When we sing, we pray twice.”  Whether it is Come Ye Thankful People, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, On Top Old Smokey or Take Me Out to the Ballgame, when we lift our voices as one, I believe it is music to God’s ears.

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