"God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy"
- Community of Christ Sings, 285 (Community of Christ)
Worship & Song, 3149 (United Methodist Church)
I wasn't sure how the service would go, nor did I expect my emotional response. All I knew was the sanctuary's atmosphere was saturated with stress, anger, and sadness. It was the first Thursday Chapel Service at Drew Theological School after students and faculty returned from the United Methodist Church's Special General Conference in St. Louis. The conference voted in support of the ‘Traditionalist Plan’; ultimately, prohibiting members of the LGBTQIA+ community from serving as clergy. While there may be lingering legislative action that may determine the plan "unconstitutional”, grief was Thursday’s overtone.
I could only describe my Drew family metaphorically in a recent email: "They left as balloons full of excitement and joy...they've returned deflated and with more punctures needing healing and air to fill them up again."
Thursday Chapel Services often become a place for communal healing and prayer after devastating incidents (Las Vegas shooting, Stone Douglas High School shooting, Hurricane Harvey, etc.). I wondered how a wounded community would gather this time.
It was quiet.
No one made a sound.
No one spoke.
Nothing echoed the sanctuary walls except for chairs squawking and the occasional “sniffle”.
We silently waited.
That is until Mark Miller, an openly gay, UMC leader and professor at Drew, sat down at the piano and played the opening E Chord to “For Everyone Born”.
“We will NOT be silent!” Mark proclaimed as he led the congregation into song.
Before long, people were standing, clapping, some grabbed various percussion instruments, while others stood together in groups hugging, crying, and singing. Within a few verses, the chapel came alive. There was a new energy reverberating through the previously mute walls. Hearts were still mourning and longing for justice, but continued beating with palpations of joy.
I will never forget this worship service, or how the ministry of music resurrected a lifeless community. May we never forget the power of song and the ways in which it unites, empowers, and heals. May we too continue singing songs of justice and joy.
Just a thought about [singing] mission.