If You Want to Sing Out
Be filled with the Spirit,as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. – Ephesians 5:18b-19 (NRSV)
I come from a family that never lets our inability to carry a tune prevent us from singing as boldly and as often as possible. If melodious voices waft, ours cut through the air like strong cheese. Whether we are at a shopping mall or in Sunday worship, when a familiar song begins, we join in with the only dynamics we know – loud and unashamed.
I have a distinct childhood memory of sitting in a church pew, my mother and grandmother on either side of me, each of us bellowing the opening hymn. The person in front of us slyly glanced over their shoulder to see who belonged to the voices that stood out from the otherwise harmonious congregation. My mom made eye contact and offered a joy-filled grin as explanation.
The sacredness of church music has nothing to do with soaring soloists or tight harmonies. When we invite everyone gathered to turn to page 476 and unite our voices, we practice Christ’s all-inclusive love. There are no auditions required, only a willingness to risk the vulnerability of being heard.
Church is a place where children who are too young to read, adults who never learned to read music, and elders who have all the words memorized are invited to make music together in praise of our Creator. Singing reminds me that God gave me a voice; singing together gives me the courage to use it.
Whether the notes are too sharp or the melody falls flat, whether we’re singing on mute during Zoom worship or through a mask in person, fill us with the Spirit of Song.
Liz Miller serves as the pastor of Edgewood United Church (UCC) in East Lansing, Michigan.