Quakers have a thing about light. We talk about the light within. The inner light. We hold people in the light. We give things to the light. It's the ineffable something. How eloquent. The ineffable something that cannot be adequately described. But that connects us somehow to one another and to the wider world.
And I realized that for me there is also an inner song. The tune within. Holding someone within the melody. Perhaps inner harmony. Music as proof of the divine. Music as the divine.
Music has saved me. I am a born-again musician. I will testify to the power of one note followed by another. When I went away to conservatory it was the equivalent of going to seminary. Or an abbey. I went to study. I went to worship. I went because I had no choice.
As a young person there was the relief of having a place to belong... voices raised, singing the correct note, knowing that the people around you were in concert with you. In accord.
When I was an angst-ridden teen, the only reason I could make myself face school on my super-down days was the lure of instrumental music. I had a place. And I could see a way forward. I could continue to perform with other musicians on and on and on. In a way that I could not see my other classes, however enjoyable, staying with me forever.
At the lowest point in my high-school Depression it was the sound of the piano coming from inside an empty church that brought me back. Made me come in from the cold. Warm my fingers. Play Debussy while a beautiful boy turned pages for me and nodded his appreciation.
When I searched for a faith community as a Unitarian, I chose the church with the best music program for my purposes. Where I could sing. Where I could play with a swing band. Where the music was not extraneous... played before and after worship. Where music was interwoven with worship.
So how did I arrive here with the quiet Quakers? Where there is no organized group raising their voices in song. No trumpets greeting the dawn. No thrill of strings...
I don't know. But it feels like home, most days.
I sit in silence with my community in a state of expectant waiting. And when I listen to the still voice within, it comes out in song. And not a song of my choosing.
When I realized that I didn't get to pick what song is going to come pouring out in the sunlit room with the wooden floors and the high ceilings I found that I needed to include singing during the week as part of my spiritual practice.
Otherwise when I was prompted with sweaty palms and drum-beating heart to stand and give voice to a song I would have to hum or whistle. Losing something. Especially because my whistling is really not good.
Only sometimes this weekday singing seems like rehearsal. Like I am practicing something SO THAT I can deliver it as a message. But that is ridiculous.
Not practicing songs would be the same as encouraging people not to read any sacred texts for fear that the words might influence their thoughts and come out as messages.
Ignorance is not a sound foundation for ministry. What happens during the week... the preparation for meeting... is important. And it looks different for all of us.
I hope that you are having a good week. I will hold you in song.
Quaker, teacher, parent,