January 10, 2011

Singing Builds Community

Editor’s Note: Here at the Virtual Abbey, we form a community by praying together regularly but there are many ways to become community. Our Virtual Music Director, Rob Passow (@Rob_Mus) discusses how singing together creates and enhances a sense of community.

In his book The Singing Thing, John Bell of the Iona community in Scotland suggests eleven reasons we sing. Among these are to:
  • express emotion tell stories
  • be creative
  • obey God’s command to “sing a new song to the Lord”
  • be in community
To me, song is community. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love singing. When I am not singing in church, I’m looking for other people to sing with. When I lift my voice with others around me, I feel transformed by the music. Through the music I feel a spiritual connection to fellow singers.

In a recent blog post, composer Grant Charles Chaput offers a physiological explanation: "When we sing our bodies are the instruments; we are…viscerally connected to the music. And by virtue of singing in an ensemble, we are connected to one another.”

Our own voices are silent much of the time during worship services. We listen to one voice sharing God’s Spirit through prayers, preaching, teaching, storytelling and meditations. This is wonderful, for we have so much to learn from one another.

But when we sing as a group in worship, we become the prayers, preaching, teaching, storytelling and meditations. When we sing together in worship, we feel the joy of the Spirit in our song and we share that communal joy. We reinforce our sense of community.

And there are other benefits to singing in community. A recent study in England found that people who sing in groups experience increased confidence, reduced stress, increased social contact (naturally) and many people have been able to cut back on dosages of prescription medications!

So for the sake of our spiritual and physical health, let us heed Paul’s admonition: “Sing! Sing your hearts out to God!” (Colossians 3:16, The Message)

Image: Choir of Angels, Gozzoli (c. 1460)


Meredith Gould said...

Many of my most transcendent yet grounded experiences happened in choir or while singing. Since moving to Baltimore, I've been unable to commit to a choir and doubt that I will be able to, even though I miss it at a core level. Lots of singing in the shower for me, though!

Brenda Finkle said...

I am so in "tune" with this message Rob - it's just SO true. I feel so close to God through worship while singing and living/breathing the hymnody. The majority of my memorable moments are shared through choir, singing with the body of Christ during worship. My husband and I ~ watching our only child go to the altar for her first communion ~ singing our hearts out tears dripping down our faces. It was a very moving moment - forever etched in our memories and strengthened through song.