As many of you have probably already noticed, in addition to being your minister, I’m also a member of the choir, which prides itself on being open to all, regardless of innate ability or previous experience. Group singing is one of my spiritual practices, and it has been a blessing to me to participate in this ministry of music with my fellow choristers. What I’d like share with you this month, on our January theme of resistance, is how a recent experience in our choir challenged me, forced me to examine my own resistance, and led me to personal growth.
Growing up, I was always put into the alto section. In my first ever church choir, as an adult, I was sorted into the sopranos, and have been there ever since — but always as a second soprano. Years of other people assessing my range had me firmly doubting my chances of hitting the high notes at all, much less well. So when it came up, I would break my own rule about “no negative self-talk”, and make deprecating jokes about my range, making sure no one would trust me with notes I couldn’t hit. In my mind, it was always about what was best for the choir as a whole, and I resisting going for something new because I expected to fail, and to bring the choir down with me. But then, for a recent piece we did in a December service — “In the Silence” — PJ and our guest conductor for the piece, church member Edward Cloud, asked me to stretch myself.
Our section was lacking first sopranos who would be present for this particular worship service, and they believed that I could not only hit a particular very high note, but that I could do it well enough to support the rest of the choir instead of ruining it. My internal resistance was ready to object, to default to those self-deprecating jokes about the way I’ve always done it, the range I’ve always had. But PJ and Edward didn’t let me get away with that. Instead, they encouraged me to keep trying, and offered me help. They picked away at my resistance, knowing that it was subconsciously holding me back from my full potential. And, in the end, with right balance of practice and rest, I hit that note, a note that just a few month ago I would have never thought possible. And I couldn’t have done that without the support and encouragement of our choir, Edward, and PJ.
January means a new calendar year, and often lots of failed New Year’s Resolutions. What I realized in this choir experience is that I often need the push of serving something bigger than myself in order to shift my thinking; I strove to hit the high note because the choir needed me to do so. In this new year, perhaps thinking of the ways this community challenges you to serve can help in setting new patterns for the roads ahead.