An invitation to choral participation, and more

Principal author:
John L. Clark


I had an opportunity yesterday to invite my fellow parishoners to participate in church choir, and I tried to make the call as radical as I could.

Last week the boss (our church choir director) asked for two volunteers to speak at Mass in order to offer an invitation to other parishoners to explore becoming choir members. I happily volunteered, and then I conspired with myself on how I could use this opportunity to present a radical vision for what I believe participation in the church community should be. This is what I wrote as an exercise to get prepared to give my pitch. I didn't read it, though.

Good morning, sisters and brothers. Does that phrase sound a bit archaic? I mean, does it sound old, or even simply odd? If it makes you uncomfortable, as it sometimes has for me, perhaps that is because we don't live like brothers and sisters, but simply as fellow parishoners. Earlier, we heard John the Baptist proclaim:

"Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."

He is the Son of God! As I look to Jesus as a teacher and as a savior—that is, as I worship him—I recognize that he invites us all to be children of his Father; when we accept that invitation, we become brothers and sisters. Are we living that way? Would it not be beautiful if we looked out for each other like good brothers and sisters, working together and sharing our lives with one another, which is another way of saying loving one another? In order for that to happen, we need to work to be a brother or a sister, and we need to allow others to be our brother or our sister. I want that; I want to be your brother. I crave it.

For me, participating in choir is one example of the way we should live as a church; I have sought participation in church choirs at every church I have attended for the past 15 years or so. These choirs have always been little families; small manifestations of what the whole church could be.

What is the goal of the choir? We facilitate worship. As brothers and sisters, we should all worship together, but the choir provides the musical pillars for that worship. We all depend on one another, and we must be present to each other, giving of our own voice and accepting the voices that others contribute. Then we make something beautiful together, in our attempt to join with the choir of angels, as we say at every Mass, to in some small way give back praise to him who allowed us to love as one family in the first place.

There are many goals for the whole church family to meet; making music to glorify God is but one of them. We have different gifts that enable us to meet these different goals, but we must use them together. If you are gifted in music, please consider helping us as we lead the music.

It didn't come off exactly like that, but I still think it went well. I did start off by intoning the psalm refrain again (“Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”), and the congregation echoed it back to me, which I did not expect. I told them as much. I riffed on the phrase that Celeste had just used to describe the choir in her own pitch: a “family within a family”. I did mention that Paul often referred to fellow Christians as brothers, as in the second reading, which I had thought about including in the above exercise.

I think I spoke boldly and clearly, and I worked hard to try to reach out and connect with (some of) those for whom I would be brother. As I was psyching myself up during Mass, I thought about making sure to turn around to make contact with the people in the sanctuary behind me, but I ended up forgetting to do so. I tried to be succinct, but I still overheard someone comment immediately after Mass that “he must have a bit of Father Phil in him. He does like to go on.” I think I'll take that as a compliment, although it didn't sound like it was intended that way. To be fair, though, that lends weight to my fundamental criticism.

I think everyone was so focused on the pitch that they may have missed everything else I had to say. A number of people said they liked my pitch, and I did have an opportunity to newly meet several parishoners after Mass, but no one mentioned my call to be more like a true family. I must, of course, trust in the Lord to use as he will whatever I can offer.

Yesterday's first reading was also beautiful. Taken together, the array of scriptures truly did (and still does) provide a beautiful tapestry of God's will for us, as I am seeing more and more clearly of late.

It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
 --Isaiah 49:6

This page was first published on 2011-01-17 22:41:00-05:00.

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