Sing Choirs of Angels, Sing in Exultation!
This week I have been trying to plan the music for services through the first Sunday of Advent, so I have spent a bit of time in the choir room. There is a lot of history in that room. On the walls are posters from choir tours and photographs from years past. Recently, a new framed photo appeared. I am not sure where it came from, but it’s an older photo from back in black and white times, possibly back to the 1960s. I figure that’s when it’s from because I remember when “Gilligan’s Island” and “I Dream of Jeannie” were in black and white.
In this photo, I noticed that there were an abundance of men in the choir. As I counted, there were actually more men in the photo than women. Now, it may just be that that was the contingent of choir members that showed up on the day that that photo was taken many years ago, or perhaps a number of the women choir members also served on the alter guild (as they do now) and they had already disrobed to go about their duties, but this photo is proof that men did sing in the choir! I am also old enough to remember men singing. There was the Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. But I digress...
As you glance around the choir room looking at these photos, you will find one taken around the year 1999 or so, back in the last millennium. Hey, there’s someone that looks like… me. Wow, was I ever that young?! At the time, I had just become a father. I was reminded a couple of years ago of how old I am getting by a long-time COS parishioner who, as I was processing out of the church at the end of a Sunday morning service, leaned over into the aisle and in a rather loud voice said, “I remember when you didn’t have any grey hair!” Now I look at these choir photos through glasses as I squint to make out the faces.
But even if the images are not quite as clear as they once were, I can still count bodies. There were ten men in the choir in twenty years ago. The choir was 25 voices strong then. As I pull out files of music from dusty filing cabinets, some of these folders have 35 copies of a single piece of music in them. Ah, to have been at COS when 35 parishioners raised their voices together to worship in song from the choir!
Some of the people from that black and white photo still come and sing here week after week. Somehow they survived the black & white age to live in technicolor. They too might now have one or two grey hairs. But there are fewer of us coming week after week. I remember voices who no longer visit us each Sunday: Glenda, Gail, the Nancys, Charlie, Bob, and Teren; some who now live in different locales: Deborah and Gretchen; and then there are the voices whom none of us hear on earth but whom I still remember well: Everett, and Pam, and Bill, gone on to join the choir of angels.
Church of Our Saviour has been here for 152 years and some change. There has always been music here and I imagine there always will be. And there have been fat years here and some lean ones. As Fr. Jeff pointed out on his first Sunday with us, COS once hit a low of some twenty parishioners, yet we have survived to thrive into the 21st century.
But as we have marched forward, there have been no seat fillers to replace our singers in the choir, and we can now no longer afford to pay people to come sing for us. We have empty seats right now. I am grateful to Laurel Bullock and Clyde Beswick who recently have come to fill two of those seats. And while I can’t promise that you will find a key taped under your seat that belongs to a brand-new car in the parking lot like Oprah, I can promise that sitting in one of those seats and singing with us will make you feel good.
As our Senior Warden Juli Kennedy (who happens to appear in that black and white photo in the choir room) said during last Sunday’s children’s time, “When we sing, we pray twice.” So, all of you singing cowboys out there, come git along to the choir room on a Sunday morning at 9:00am. We’ll have some light grub and a cup a joe, and praise God, twice!
As we remember all of the saints who have come before us as we march toward All Saint’s Day, I will say a prayer for all of those choir members who donned robes while singing to the heavens before me. I pray that there will be someone to come fill my seat when I am through. Oh, and Everett, Pam, and Bill, please save me a seat in that choir up there. I know you are making one glorious sound.
“Sing All Ye Citizens of Heaven Above. Glory to God, Glory in the Highest!”