Put quite simply, I love to sing. I sing alone, I sing in the shower, I sing in the car, I sing in church. Why, I sing anywhere. I also move my body to the beat, dipping my shoulders side to side, nodding my head at words and notes that inspire me.
I’ve had the privilege of singing in a number of church choirs through the years, including those special cantatas rehearsed over months for Christmas and Easter. The words and music get into my head and my heart, encouraging and inspiring me through my days.
Two experiences from my past thrilled me in ways I find difficult to define, except to say there were chills running down my spine as the voices blended to produce a sound that was almost unimaginable. While a member of First Presbyterian Church in Orangeburg, the choir joined together with the choirs of Claflin University and South Carolina State University for two separate performances of significant religious works.
I especially enjoy the traditional hymns of the church. Indeed, that was part of my church experience, long before the popular contemporary Christian artists appeared on the scene in the 1970s. There is a comfort in singing those older hymns, knowing that in their profound and rich words, they have survived the passing of time, still able to reach into the depths of my soul.
Two hymns have particular meaning. While my dad was in the final days of his life, I was reading and studying the Old Testament book of Lamentations when I encountered the words, “great is thy faithfulness.” Those words sustained me throughout the remainder of dad’s illness and during his funeral where, once again, black and white voices united to sing this hymn of praise during his service. It was a moment of pure worship.
“It Is Well With My Soul” is another hymn that inspires me each time I hear it or sing it. The author, who suffered a tragic loss of family, wrote the song to describe how God’s presence and grace sustain us even in the worst of circumstances. To be able to sing and understand “it is well with my soul” is a gift of mercy unlike many others. It is my husband’s favorite hymn.
Last Sunday, my minister announced that we would be singing one of the “old” hymns during the service. At one time, it was removed from the hymnal (don’t get me started on that) but was reinstated in the latest edition of our church’s collection of hymns. The third verse reads:
“Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer
“May I thy consolation share
“Till from Mt. Pisgah’s loft height,
“I view my home and take my flight;
“This robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise
“To seize the everlasting prize;
“And shout, while passing through the air
“‘Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer.’”
A robe of flesh. Never have I viewed my skin and bones as a robe, but last Sunday, I realized anew just how temporary this life of flesh is. When you sing in a choir, it’s like putting on a robe, then taking it off, an act choir members take for granted. One moment, it’s on; the next, it’s off.
One moment we are here, on this planet in this time. The next, we have departed. For those whose faith is in the resurrected Jesus, the drop of a robe will mean everything.