I don't get out much on Sundays. When I am away from College Church, I like to attend a service led by a friend/colleague, or a well-known church in whatever town I may be in, or whatever. When I can't (see story below), there is always the default option: listen to College Church's service online.
That's what I did this past Sunday, visiting my son in California for the primary purpose of watching professional bicycle racing, live and in person in the Bay Area. In order to get in all we hoped to during the day, and so Chris could hear our new pastor, we tuned in and settled down for a service that I had planned and was frankly sorry to miss in person. Sadly, about 15 minutes into the service, power went out where we were in San Jose. But that was enough time to hear, and be reminded again, what a joy it is to hear the College Church congregation sing with their characteristic heart.
The hymns we heard: "Praise the Almighty, my Soul, Adore Him" - a Lutheran chorale in a stunning setting by Walter L. Pelz for congregation, choir, organ and brass. This is a favorite here, having been immediately embraced when it was introduced. The setting (CPH - Concordia, 1996) is thoughtfully voiced and scored, carefully communicating this deeply biblical and joyful hymn. Following the Creed, the congregation sat and continued with "I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art." Again, a hymn well-loved and beautifully sung. When you can hear the congregation sing well, on the computer, you know they are singing well! Naturally, with a choir in the loft, the sound is enhanced in the broadcast, but even at that there is no disguising that the congregation knows, loves, and sings these things. What a joy to listen to this.
I was reminded again what a privilege it is to have some responsibility for the peoples' song. Reminded again that it is in fact the peoples' song that has and must retain the highest priority for church music. I hope I don't lose my perspective on this as I continue in my work. It helps when the congregation I serve embraces the song so well, so widely, and with such a good nature.
Now, the story: Nearly 13 years ago my family was in process, moving to Wheaton from Burnsville, MN. The kids wanted to start school here, but we couldn't get into our house until October 1. So we were invited to stay for 6 weeks in the basement of College Church members, the kindly and legendary Dr. Kenneth Taylor and his wife Margaret. Gracious, hospitable, and formal but not intimidating, we were included in meals and invited to participate in their evening devotions.
I say "we" but for 4 of those weeks, while I was finishing my work in MN, Karen was there alone with the four children. The first night they were invited to participate in devotions, Karen rounded them up, and rather directly told them they were to be there and enjoy it. Our youngest, never one to mince his words, and at the same time capable of an easy charm, was in 5th grade. At the end of the various readings (from Job, and a devotional on hymns), and prayer, Andrew said: "Well! I really like these devotions. We never do anything like this ... unless we're on vacation and don't want to go to church!"
This may have been the moment at which Karen thought maybe she had made the last move for a church music position, if she can help it...