July 19, 2022

From the Rector…

Whenever I get anxious or afraid, I find myself singing. Typically, my songs are those of Taizé—simple, repetitive songs based on scripture. Occasionally I find myself singing children’s songs like Jesus loves me or He’s got the whole world in his hands. My choice is not based on the words of the song necessarily—though sometimes the words matter. Instead, I find myself drawn into a song or hymn simply for the rhythm and comfort it inspires. 

Music inspires, comforts, encourages, laments, surprises us, lifts the spirit, motivates, even depresses us. Music can influence our mood in ways that move beyond our present understanding of life or a situation. It can be a path toward healing and a powerful coping mechanism. It can also harm us when we are not careful with it.

Back in the 1980s there was a study about music and rats. There were two groups of rats exposed to music plus a control group who was not exposed to music. The rats were put into a box and had to listen to music 24 hours a day. One group listened to heavy metal music and the other group listened to classical music. The results of the experiment were startling. After thirty days, the heavy metal rats tended to fight and kill one another; the classical rats were thriving and peaceful; and the control group was unaffected either way. The conclusion was telling—what we listen too influences what we become.

The power of music can lead people “to acts of love and acts of war.” (Plato) Men were once led onto the field of battle by drummers. The hum of crickets and cicadas on a warm summer night gives us a sense of peace. The rhythm of the ocean with wave after wave lapping upon the sand can draw us into slumber. Music—be it that which we create or the natural world—has a powerful and stirring effect upon all of creation.

Music supports our worship of God. The words and notes of music we are exposed to powerful theology, the tunes and rhythm draw us into our praise. This happens in two ways. First, the service music—things like the Gloria and the Doxology—are repeated throughout a season of the church year and become ingrained in us through our worship experience. The more we hear those pieces of music and sing them, the deeper entrenched they become. In times of need, they become a method of coping, a reminder of hope, and a source of strength and comfort. Second, hymns offer us a profound glimpse into the depth of our belief and faith. There are so many things we believe about God that are difficult to express in prose language, but in poetry and hymn draw us into a greater understanding and relationship with God. Hymns become a source of our knowledge and working out of what we believe. Even if you don’t sing, following along with a hymn and soaking in its message can have a transformative effect on your belief. Even the singing of the psalms draws us into the poetic language that manifests the original purpose and intent of them—the telling of Israel’s history as a love story between God and God’s people.

I love music—all kinds of music. I love the music of the church and on the radio. I like classical and heavy metal and everything in between. But mostly, I’m all about an 80s mix tape.

Light and Life,