A recent devotional for a gospel choir

It is amazing when the Holy Spirit works in ways and at times you really don’t expect.

For those of us who lead choirs that comprise entirely of members with their own Christian faith, every rehearsal should be an opportunity to affirm individual and collective faith. Sometimes the ‘devotional bit’ is nothing more than a cliché. On other occasions, it can be a way to really bring the members of the group onto the same page with regard to who they are and why they do what they do.

If you are a choral director and genuinely serious about mission, then devotional work is part of the story. Working in ministry alongside music means that there are always things to hand when it comes time to take a devotional with a choir or group. But on Sunday gone I did something different, and the effect of it tells me that I am supposed to spend that kind of time planning the devotional part of the rehearsal along with the musical and technical stuff! So as some of these choir members have asked me to email what we did with them, I realised that it could maybe help others – hence this blog post.

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Because I had eight people, I had eight ‘elements’ – but that is an arbitrary number. However, the intensity of discussion means that however many are in your choir, I’d not suggest you have more than eight.

The ‘elements’ in this instance are pieces of paper which were placed in a receptacle, from which the members picked one each. I conspicuously paired four quotations with four Bible passages, but the idea of mixing them up was to jut let the ideas float out and then pull the strands together.

The four quotations:

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men [and women], for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible” (T.E. Lawrence).

If you can eat anything you want to, what’s the fun in eating anything you want to?” (Tom Hanks).

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

About the only thing which comes to us without effort is old age” (Gloria Pitzer).

The four Bible passages:

  • Deuteronomy 6:20-25
  • Proverbs 20:4 (multiple versions is an excellent idea)
  • 1 Corinthians 6:12-15
  • Joel 2:28

See if you can match them up yourself…

~

You may wonder why this level of thought is necessary for the purposes of preparing to sing praises to and about God. Surely the musical stuff is more important? I mean, that’s what the listeners are actually going to hear, right?

I’d say that if that’s where you’re at, then you may never have experienced what it means to perform music with more than knowledge of the ‘right notes and rhythms.’ That is only the beginning. We then have to ask what the music actually means and that’s not a game for lightweights when it comes to the gospel message. If all we offer is the sound of the music – because that’s all we have – then that’s all we’ll get. But if we offer more than that – because we really actually thought about what we wanted to say and how the music was going to facilitate the process of saying it – then that is what the listeners will receive!

Amazing, isn’t it? We think that music performance is what we do, but too many of us never realise that music practice is like Christian faith in one big way: who we (actually) are is what people see and remember most.

 

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