“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing; Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise”
In June, we hosted a training with the amazing team from Music that Makes Community. We spent 3 days learning how to engage our faith communities in singing as a spiritual practice. During the training, we explored the ancient and new practice of paperless music leadership, sharing songs as people did before music or words were written down. We learned new songs, practiced improvising our own tunes, and sang and laughed and played and prayed.
One afternoon, my small group spontaneously began singing “Come Thou Fount” during our time together. And when I got in my car to drive home that night, the words and music were still lingering there, and I began singing it to myself as I drove home.
I began wondering….how do we tune our hearts? I recently watched a video of a teacher demonstrating how a gong should be played. The students kept asking for specifics of where to hit the gong, and in what order and the teacher simply said, that is the art. He went on to explain that the only way to tune a gong is to play it. Most instruments you tune them first and then you play them, but the gong finds the right pitch and vibration only through being played.
I wonder if our voices and our hearts are not the same. We only find the right pitch by playing, by singing, by practicing, by trying. And in fact, perhaps that is not work that we do alone, but work that is done only in community – we hear the vibrations differently when they come together with other voices and what if that in turn tunes our hearts?
What if we learn to listen, really listen, as we tune in to each other’s voices and to the sound at the center, a sound that can only be created together. What happens when we tune in? When we hear and find our own voices which as we discovered is not just something we do with our vocal chords. It starts with breathing in, and opening up and releasing back to the world. Tuning in isn’t just a physical body thing (although it happens in our bodies – we feel it), it is a spiritual experience, a place of transformation. Because when we tune in to our own breath, we begin to notice our emotions and to pay attention to our anxiety and our tears, our anger and our fear. We discover how to hold space for all of ourselves and we learn to use the MMC mantra, “what did you notice.” This isn’t just a way to learn, it’s a way to wake up to our true selves, to really notice what God is doing in us and through us. To allow all of ourselves to be part of God’s holy work of transformation – of making us new.
I struggle to carry a tune and feel incredibly nervous stepping in front of a group to share a song, but I love to sing, I love the experience of grace that I find in bringing my voice into relationship with other voices and of hearing myself differently in community than I do when I am alone. I come to Music that Makes Community, because I am offered this grace and encouraged to share it, give it away to others. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world with a lot more of that. I think Jesus came among us to remind us that is what God wants too. I pray that this work will continue to resound in my innermost being, to sense the way that my heart has been tuned, and that I will find opportunities to continue to gather with others to sing God’s grace.
To find out more about the work of Music that Makes Community – check out their website! I’m immensely grateful to Paul Vasile, Emily Scott, Ana Hernandez, and Charles Murphy for the gifts they shared with our community during their time in Cincinnati!