Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
It was initially a desperate idea. How could we engage our middle school youth in good “ole” VBS? We realized that all of these youth were participants in the school band program. So our wild idea was to have them form a band led by our choir director.
The first Sunday they accompanied a hymn was, well, painful. The hymn took twice as long to sing and it was hard to determine if they were all playing the same one. But they were determined to get better. The youth recruited friends to fill out the band. They practiced more. The congregation never murmured a word.
About five or six years later these young musicians had all grown in their skills. All were first chairs in the high school band. All had achieved regional or all-state honors. The high school band director credited the congregation’s nurture and encouragement for their accomplishments.
This is congregational life at its best. The care, support, encouragement, and reconciliation lived out in the lives of real people of faith. I don’t want to underplay the importance of music to this story. This shared experience of people playing hymns for the first time and people singing them for the thousandth time created a very special bond.
We have been gifted in the PC(USA) with a new hymn book, Glory to God. It is a rich feast of music we know and music we will learn to love. The introduction has some aspirations of the committee.
This we hope:
We hope the cover imprint fades from greasy fingers.
We hope the pages become wrinkled and torn from constant use.
We hope our children will sing from this hymnal—
We hope our grandchildren will too.
Music is core to a vital congregational life. It has the power to transform grief, doubt, fear into hope, faith, and love. It can span generations and, on a good Sunday, even reach the heavens with sweet praise. Flat notes, squeaky notes, unique notes are all welcome. Let us make a joyful noise.