by Wil Smith
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
I really love the sound of the ‘untrained’ voice. In grad school, I had the pleasure of conducting a group of non-singers (who were, full-disclosure, all professional instrumentalists in the making) in a very difficult choral piece—Igor Stravinsky’s Mass. I loved the sound of that group, and was so enamored with it that when I later when I wrote my thesis, a piece for orchestra, I had all of the string players sing while simultaneously playing their instruments during the last 3 minutes of the work.
As an organist, I have the same pleasure in accompanying the congregation in song. Our voices come in all shapes and varieties—some old, some young, some trained, some not, all coming together as one body. A voice that might not be pitch-perfect when combined with others around it results in a beautiful and glorious sound.
In the summer when many of our members are traveling around the world and our worship numbers are lower, I’ve noticed that the voices get softer, a little less sure, feeling exposed or isolated.
One way to solve this in worship and to bring our church family and guests together is to sit close to one another. John Bell, the hymn writer our esteemed visiting theologian from last year, recommends sitting within 4 feet for the nearest person. He once told me that when a group of friends or family gather around a table, they don’t sit here and there, scattered around, but sit close.
So that’s your challenge, ye faithful summer worshippers. Help us improve our singing and our spirit of welcome by sitting close to one another—and might I recommend in sitting in the middle pew section? It will add such a great energy during our summer months, and help us welcome our visitors.
So sit close, sing out, and make a joyful noise!