“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
The Shema, the last set of instructions Moses gave to his people before dying, has given me a helpful perspective on my vocation as a church musician working with young voices. In these unusual times, I have re-learned that focusing on outcomes—how many hymns and anthems we memorized, how many videos made, etc.—can amount to little more than busywork. In the desert of a global pandemic, I have rediscovered that I am called to teach more than the rudiments of music because I am helping to form our young volunteers’ faith.
That is why, instead of lamenting my circumstances, I have chosen to celebrate the gains we have made while Zooming. Of course, I am glad the kids mastered the Curwen-Kodály hand signs. But I am thrilled we had time to talk about matters of faith. From our little squares, we talked about what transpired in their lives or explored the context of a reading or a hymn (or both). I will always treasure the lively discussion that ensued when we counted and named all the images used to describe the Spirit of God in the hymn “As the Wind Song” (ACS 943).
We also developed new habits: we regularly capped our rehearsals by eating lychee fruit-coconut-jellies (I know, it is odd but so unusual and fun that it became “our thing”). As we did so, we learned the wonderful table blessing “God Bless to Us Our Bread” (ASC 1056) to the point where we sang it by heart before we ate the jellies. After a few months, some parents reported that their kids were singing it to say grace at home.
In retrospect, it is a blessing to know that, through the ministrations of the Holy Spirit, these little actions now have a life of their own. I, for one, cannot wait for the day when my young singers will stand and teach the congregation the songs we learned while in exile. Call it God’s grace in times of COVID: the quarantine has made me pay attention to what is essential. And it has brought this small community closer together.
Soli Deo Gloria.