I recently commented to a friend that a singer in our church’s youth choir was the bravest young man I know. The last time he was in choir was before COVID, when he had sung treble beautifully. Now his voice has changed, and he is struggling to figure out how to work this new instrument, which feels and sounds so different. An additional challenge is that his peers are reluctant to join the choir, so he sings alone in the bass register. I admire his tenacity and his positive attitude, even when he makes mistakes. I say that he has courage. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Of course, singing in a choir is not dangerous, and he doesn’t seem to be afraid, but it is difficult for him.
Besides his courage, the other observation I have from youth choir rehearsals is the encouragement from the treble singers. Each one of them is patient and helpful, spurring him on and cheering his successes. Thank God for these young people! This combination of courage and encouragement will sustain the choir and enable both musical and spiritual growth.
In my own work, I remember countless times when I have felt either encouraged or discouraged. Isn’t it funny how much weight either an encouraging or discouraging word can have? It can either make or break your day or even a whole week! I do believe that to be a church musician today takes courage. Working through the pandemic was difficult, and now the church is not as we left it in 2019. We live in an increasingly secular society in which what we do in worship is seen as less and less important. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s hymn text from 1930 feels more applicable to my life now than when I started my career. “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days” (“God of Grace and God of Glory,” ELW 705). We need strength and perseverance. We need courage.
We also need to give and receive encouragement. The Epistles included many words of encouragement to the early Christians. “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other…” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Be an example of encouragement to others. When your strength fails you and you are discouraged, try to surround yourself with the things and people that give you strength. Maybe it’s spending time with a close friend or listening to music that inspires you. Read the Bible and pray. Ultimately, it is God who is the source of our strength. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) You are not alone.