Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)
Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)
Be joyful in God, all you lands; *
sing the glory of his Name;
sing the glory of his praise.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! *
because of your great strength your enemies
cringe before you.
All the earth bows down before you, *
sings to you, sings out your Name.”
Come now and see the works of God, *
how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.
He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot, *
and there we rejoiced in him.
In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations; *
let no rebel rise up against him.
Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams; *
I will give you oxen and goats.
Come and listen, all you who fear God, *
and I will tell you what he has done for me. Psalm 66 (BCP)
Let me cut you in on a little secret. I have one of those voices that…well…carries. Now, I don’t really try to be that way. But whatever gene gives people…um…”their indoor voice”…well, my gene just has a big ol’ deletion there. It doesn’t exactly lend me to being anonymous in church. When I supplied for the Presbyterians a few weeks ago, someone at my church said “I knew when you got back from supplying b/c all of a sudden in the middle of church I heard you. I mean, you know, it’s not like we don’t notice when you are gone.”
Well, and another thing…I sing pretty much a full octave lower than most of the women in church. My high school music teacher used to dump me in with the boys who sang tenor. It’s not what anyone would consider a “pretty” voice for a female. But it’s resonant, and it’s loud, and in a weird way, it’s kind of dichotomous, depending on who you talk to. It doesn’t sound all that great with many songs in the 1982 Hymnal. I know one person who often teases me that she’s pretty sure no one at church is going to ask us to do a duet. Yet, I always notice she is normally not a big singer, but when she stands next to me she seems to feel a little emboldened about singing.
On the other hand, give me some of the tenor parts in many of the Taizé songs, and I sound pretty darn good. I know one person at our Taizé service who tells me, “I always just love hearing you do the tenor parts. It makes me feel good singing my part.”
I’ve only had one person in my life try to shut me up when I sing in church, (he told me it was “distracting,” and that it drowned out the women with beautiful delicate voices) and I remember how he would look over at me and make subtle “you are so annoying and uncool” faces. I felt ashamed about that for a while, then one day I got tired of feeling ashamed, and I just quit looking at his reactions and sang anyway.
But there it is. My voice. There’s really not much I can do with a lot of it, should I choose to use it. It’s taken me a lot of years to even halfway make peace with the good and the bad of my singing voice, and these days I just sing joyfully and let the chips fall where they may. The truth is, I like being joyful in church, and if my singing and praying aloud voice is “joyful noise,” well, it’s just going to have to be joyful noise.
Have you ever just kicked back and thought about the beauty of the gathered voices on any given Sunday in your home parish, from the shrieking child to the most elderly patriarch? When I think back to the death of one friend in my parish and the relocation of another friend to another state, I recall acutely missing the sound of their voices among the baseline of the gathered voices–yet at the same time feeling the baseline of our typical Sunday singing simultaneously carrying me through my grief. These days, I swear I hear those people in the background now and then. Sometimes, I swear I hear the heart voices of the people whom I’ve never heard sing an actual note. I think about the times I’ve heard the voices of others be tearful, and the times my own voice has cracked in awe of the beauty filling my ears. I think about the voices I’ve heard grow up in the parish, from little thready sing-song child voices to voices beginning to burst open to reveal the adults they are becoming. Somehow the mystery of all of it–the harmony and the dis-harmony, singing in tandem–works out to something bordering on saintly.
Our Psalm today invites us to simply sing from a voice focused on what God has done for us, and to listen to the voices around us. What do we hear when we quit fretting over what we sound like?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid