"Serve the LORD with gladess; come before His presence with singing."Psalm 100:2
People love to hear music when they attend church. It adds another dimension to the service. I am sure that in your own personal experience you recall times in your life that were heightened by the music being played in church. My father’s funeral is one such memory, to me. Even this week’s Royal Wedding was uplifted with glorious music and the divine songs of a choir.
But harmony is not always prevalent. We have been experiencing a crisis in our church choir for months now, one that has tested the limits of our tolerance and true Christian spirits as individuals and as a group.
The trouble began last October when our music minister and his wife, the organist, resigned. Our Pastor and self-appointed Choir Spokesman set out together to search for a new Music Director. They recruited someone who was approved by the Parish council. We were all thrilled to hear that we would have a new choir director in time for Christmas.
During our first meeting with him, our very first rehearsal together, there was a sense of resistance when he distributed the music we would be singing. Much eye-rolling, too. For the selections were not, shall we say, sophisticated.
All right, I thought, we are here to serve. It’s a ministry. Perhaps this is a new aspect of how we are being asked to serve. Surely we will all join together and respect the Choirmaster, and respect the Pastor.
Putting personal agendas aside for the greater good.
However, it didn’t quite go this way. People refused to sing. Really, a choral boycott, if you can believe it. And the self-appointed Choir Spokesman circulated a petition the following day, declaring the new Choirmaster ‘unfit.’
When they handed it to me to me to sign, I refused and asked them a question of my own: regardless of how any one of us may feel personally, aren’t we obliged to support the Choirmaster and the Pastor out of respect for them?
Ever since then, I have been ostracized. Left out of conversations, avoided at rehearsals, ignored at every turn.
As Saint Augustine said, singing is an elevated form of prayer, and in isolating me from themselves, my friends have actually freed me from their negativity and allowed me to join in unity and harmony and soulful prayer with God. I could almost thank them, in a way. For even though their lock-out of me has not had the effect they intended it to have, it has been very effective - it has opened another channel of oneness with God for me.
This week, the changes were made. The Pastor excused many of the choir members, and actually asked others not to come back. I will miss my friends, in a way, for they are good people. Just not in the right arena. Perhaps some will re-think and return; I hope so.
We sing about forgiveness, redemption, being welcome, being called. What good is it if we can’t put it into practice when there are bumps in the road? We sing with our voices and our hearts. I hope the music will once again serve to unite us as a choir, as a parish community and as a Christians once again. Let them know we are Christians by our love.
I keep thinking about the way they ostracized me and how it turned out to be something so wonderful. Has something like this ever happened to you, that something so dreadful actually turned into a way for you to grow closer to God? What did you do about it?
Cascade's heart pounded. "Father Greene. Stay with me!" she urged as forcefully as she could. She knew from experience how easily it was for people to just slip away. Tears brimmed in her eyes. "Come on, hang in there."
"What's wrong, Cascade?"
Dan's voice filled the vestibule at the entrance of the church, out of sight from her.
"Over here, Dan, on the side in the sanctuary," she called. "Hurry, please!"
After what seemed to be only a split-second, Dan appeared. "What happened?"
"Father Greene was assaulted for the collection basket."
Grabbing his cell phone, Dan dialed 911 and spoke with authority. "Make it fast, we have an elderly priest who is beaten," he directed. He hung up saying, "They'll be right here."
Cascade closed her eyes and said a silent prayer of thanksgiving. "Thank you."
"I'm fine, I'm fine. No fuss." Father Green let out a low groan.
After the ambulance left and the police had taken their statements, she and Dan sat in the back pew.
"That's all I saw. I just came by to surprise him with my plans for the CYO art project. No one else was around. When I came in, he was on the floor."
Tears welled up in her eyes. She tried, but she could not contain them. "It was awful."
"He'll be okay, Cascade."
The tone of Dan's voice felt so soothing to Cascade, like aloe on a raging sunburn. "Thank goodness, but what's going on, Dan? Assaulting an elderly priest? It breaks my heart." She could not stop her tears. "This rotten town."
"Let's head out." Dan guided them out the front entrance of the church. They sat on the steps. "I sure am glad we stopped by."
Cascade nodded. It felt good to be outside, in the sunshine. The light warmed her spirit.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Sure. No. It's all so wrong."
"The fact that Father Greene has to put up with is. Doesn't he have enough on his mind? Church renovations, dwindling enrollment in the school, cutbacks from the Diocese, a shortage of priests… What are you looking at me like that for?"
"You seem to know a lot about what's going on here."
"I read up on things, before I opted in on the windows." She tilted her chin skyward.
"I'm kind of surprised, given how you seemed so anti-Sterling Lakes."
How could she tell him about the soul-searching she had done? How she had held up a mirror to her heart and seen the change she needed to make to be true to herself? Most of all, how could she tell him what a big part he had played in her decision?
"You're right, I was. Then I listened to Abby and Maryanne...and you. Plus I prayed, a lot. I think, Dan, what I realized is that carrying a torch of resentment will eventually get me burned."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"I thought I knew that, but when I had to act according to what I said I believed, it was tough."
She took off her sunglasses and looked right at him. "Holding on to anger or resentment can be a real cop-out. It's hiding in a comfort zone and escaping from having to move forward. But ultimately," she sighed, "I’ll be the one to lose out because the cocoon I’ve built around myself will get so hard I won't be able to break out of it."
"Makes sense." He checked his cell phone, and then slipped it back into his jeans pocket.
"Do you have to go?"
"Nope. Can I ask you something, Cascade? What happened here in town to make you so mad?"
"I'm not sure why you want to know, but I'll tell you."
"I'd like to get to know you better."
She looked at him, the sunlight playing across his handsome face, illuminating his features and dancing through his dark hair. His eyes seemed bluer than blue and filled with an expression she couldn't quite identify. But she liked it. A lot.
A resident of Providence, RI, Regina grew up in nearby Barrington. After graduating from Providence College she attended the University of Delaware, eventually earning her Master’s Degree in American Civilization from Brown University. She is inspired by anything to do with nature, and she and her husband enjoy visiting nearby Cape Cod.
Regina’s hobbies include Travel, Museums, Theater, Classical Music, Choral Singing and Gardening. She is a radio host for In-Sight, an association dedicated to providing services to the visually impaired of all ages.
Read more about Regina at her Web site: http://www.reginaandrews.com/
And visit her blog at http://www.reginaandrews.wordpress.com/