I like singing in harmony. It makes me feel better about being different. When you sing the alto line in a group of people who are singing the melody, nobody gets annoyed because they have to shift their routines or their thinking to accomodate you. They just cock their heads a little when their ears realize that something is different and then they sink into a certain peace at the loveliness of the sound. Their faces relax and they keep singing, sometimes putting even a little more into it, to highten the experience. It's a visceral metaphor for the rest of my life and so I relish the chances that I get to do it.
Once a month at my new church, they have Taize vespers. Sunday evening's was the first that I had attended. It was glorious. Before the service started, Nanette said that we were going to learn the alto part to one of the choruses. The words were simply, "O God, you love us, source of compassion." These words and their simple melody line are repeated over and over to allow for prayer amidst the repetition. The group learned the alto line with Rob, the keyboardist's, help.
Then, we began the service. I learned from the old ladies on the island that people like it when those who can sing well sing out in small groups at church. They said that they enjoyed listening and I hope it gave them room to sing louder and feel their wn power. Feeling like the group tutorial gave me the last permission I needed, I sang harmony on any chorus that included it. We sang "In our God we'll be ever thankful, in our God we will rejoice! Look to God, do not be afraid; lift up your voices, for God is near; lift up your voices, for God is near," and "Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let not my doubts nor my darkness speak to me. Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let my heart always welcome your love." All humilty, simple joy and plaintive prayer for improvement. None of that Lord-you-are-worthy-to-be-praised shit that is more about how cool the singer is for being smart enough to choose Jesus than about how cool God is. The only thing that is worshipped in most Contemporary Christian praise songs is the human who is singing.
I have never sung Taize although I have heard about it before. I found it effective for giving me a chance to be contemplative. Singing alto also requires me to sit up straight, open up my torso to work out the kinks and to breathe because my range doesn't easily go below middle C. Interestingly, this is the same position that I settle myself into for meditation in yoga. It is powerful to be able to breathe deeply and without obstacle. I have received several wonderful notes from people to encourage me during my trip to Africa. A friend from the island, Bridget, wrote me a note that reminded me to keep breathing and I was so grateful to have west coast friends who realize that breathing is something more than an automatic response to lack of oxygen. So, having to sing lower than I normally do put my body in a position to pray, which means I was in a position to open myself up and let God into all of the places in my life that I have pushed him out of. Like Leonard Cohen says, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." There are cracks in everything and we squish ourselves up to keep from leaking. Singing low notes makes me stretch out so that God can repair the damage. Remember that the ancient words for breath, life and spirit were all the same.
When we got to the song we had learned before the service started, it sounded like I was the only one singing the harmony, which was fine with me. It was particularly deep and slow and after singing it 10 or 12 times, we drifted into silence and I had read in the bulletin earlier that this silence would last 10 minutes to really give us a chance to listen for God. It said, "When we try to express communion with God in words, we rapidly reach the end of or capabilities." I love that. I hadn't thought about the fact that our conversations with God are fairly one-sided, with us doing all of the talking, even though he has so much more to offer. So, as these 10 minutes started, I was lucky enough to already be stretched out, sitting centered on my spine, with my chest open. It was like I was halfway there already to being filled with God's light again.
I like this church.
the start of something - I had intended to wait until more colors were added to the pile of cotton I've dyed recently. But it was just too tempting sitting there on my studio table...