Church needs to be like a choir

From Our Leaders

December 30, 2020 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 1
Darryl Neustaedter Barg | Mennonite Church Manitoba
Darryl Neustaedter Barg

Happy New Year. In reflecting on the church for 2021, I’ve been impacted by my experience creating virtual choirs—those videos where choristers sing at home, into their phone, and the video and audio from that phone recording get put together into one cohesive choir.

I have had a lot of interaction with choristers on how this experience has been for them. Actually, I’ve often had to convince them to participate while they’re in the process of creating their recording. Below are some of their reflections:

  • Trying to undertake the work of a choir, by myself in my living room, reveals a lot about my personal skills. I’m not nearly as good as I thought I was, and maybe it’s not worth submitting my part.
  • Doing my part by myself isn’t the same as being in a real choir. I don’t get the sense of being on the journey, or participating in that glorious, God-revealing work with others. Maybe it’s not worth submitting my part.
  • Not getting together for choir regularly makes it difficult to practice—to do the things that make me a strong, contributing member of a choir. Maybe it’s not worth submitting my part.
  • Why would I embarrass myself in this choir, when there are people who are much, much better at this than me? I’m probably not going to submit my part.

The good news is that I know almost every contribution is going to be helpful. If the singer was relatively able to stay with the musical program, I did not turn their volume down. A mixture of sounds blends well and makes a good virtual choir.

What really struck me was how much encouragement was required from me (putting the project together) and from the conductor/director, so that people would follow through and participate. When they did, they were always pleased, and the result was much better for it. Often these virtual choir pieces served as encouragement beyond the immediate audience, to people whom the singers didn’t even know.

Church choirs create a special environment where a range of gifts can contribute, space is made for learning to work together, and there is motivation for improving—but the beauty often lies in the sharing with others.

Now, substitute the word “church” for “choir.”

While you may want to take this as an encouragement toward more choral singing (which I do advocate), I think the church needs to be more like a church choir—working together—not just the choir director loving the music. This means letting “singing” be a daily joyful practice in many settings, and being encouraged to “sing” your part and contribute your gifts to the whole. As we move past COVID-19, will we have the time and energy to encourage people to love “singing” enough to participate freely? How can we help people meaningfully “sing” for the reign of God?

I believe the future of the church will be in Jesus-following communities that create opportunities for involving all gifts, singing (metaphorically and literally) God’s beautiful, reconciling, past, present and future, together.

Darryl Neustaedter Barg is director of communications for MC Manitoba.

Read more From Our Leaders columns:
Growing with our global faith family
Insiders versus outsiders
Expert, doubt thyself
Reaping what you sow
Faith is so much more

Darryl Neustaedter Barg

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