Sitting in historic Miller Chapel at Princeton Theological Seminary, voices in song filled the air. Worshipping with strangers is a true act of faith, trusting our vulnerable selves to the One God who brought us all to that place, rather than to the friends who serve on the same committees or the other moms in the play group. More exposed, naked even, we sang and we praised and we listened with only ourselves in the pews. No fidgeting children to distract, no lists of what to do after the service. Singing old hymns and new songs from far away lands with people right next to me that I have never met with only the thread of the Holy Spirit connecting each one of us together, allowing the Spirit to weave us into one as we sought the One. I got lost in the singing, I joined in sometimes and others I just allowed the music and the words to move through me. Sacred beauty glory.
We sang songs from many cultures, from old hymnals and new. The determined inclusiveness brought an awareness that while we sat in that tiny chapel, the world continued on outside and the world sought our voices. The inclusiveness felt awkward at first, I didn’t know how to say those Nigerian words, how to speak all those other languages, and then sing them? What an ask. But I did, I raised my voice finding that together our individual sounds and squeaks and flats and off pitches or whatever judgements those who really know music would make, those things disappeared as our willingness to show up was transformed within those walls, within that chapel into a sound the angels surely loved. Maybe it was amazing acoustics, maybe I was caught up in the excitement of the event, but I heard wave after wave of notes and tones that lifted me higher and pulled me in.
Singing with strangers who don’t realize that at my church back home I ama quiet singer, our seats are more spread out, the expectations of me during the singing are much lower, changes everything. They didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t a singer, they expected me to add my voice, I idid. They expected me to speak up loudly, I did. Now I do have to say it was a conference for writers and there may be many who were sitting next to me who are penning their own thoughts about a woman who was so terrible at singing that she ruined the whole chapel service, but I like to think the smiles I received when we passed the peace were not pitying but genuine. No, something happened in that chapel, the Spirit was among us.
Returning home, I determinedly raised my voice just a bit at church when the music began. I stopped thinking so much about how bad I might sound and allowed the music to carry and alter my voice as it melded with all the others. I think I finally understand how Pentecost has allowed me to speak in tongues, allowed me to talk in a way quite foreign to me. The Spirit has filled me and given me a voice to sing with the chorus.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4