Consecration of Musical Gifts

Geoffrey Waite, Director of Music

This coming Sunday we will be taking some time in the course of our Sunday morning worship for the Consecration of Musical Gifts, both a yearly tradition at Laurel Heights and a time to celebrate and acknowledge thanks for the musical creativity which has been built into us by our Creator, and which so enriches our life together as a worshiping community.

We will also be considering Psalm 137, a psalm of the Jews in Babylonian exile and captivity. “By the rivers of Babylon we hung up our harps and wept,” they lament. When taunted by the Babylonians to sing some of the songs of Zion, God’s people cry out in frustration, “How can we sing the Lord’s praises in a strange land?” Everything is wrong, everything is upside down, nothing is familiar.

Musical expressions of worship for much of the world have been turned upside down these last six months. We have been forced into a type of musical “captivity” brought upon us by the coronavirus pandemic. At Laurel Heights our “songs of Zion,” our own and familiar songs of praise, have been stifled and largely silenced for our congregational voices. In this
“strange land,” unlike the Jews in Babylon who struggled against sadness to sing, we struggle to sing because we are not allowed to. It isn’t safe to do so. Both are loss. We have had to find compromised and symbolic ways to give voice to our songs. From those who sing from the congregation to those who lead hymns and anthems of praise in the choir, we all miss
it dearly.

How do we find new expressions for our songs? Here are but a few examples. Sing where you can, in the shower, in your car, in your living room, but with an intentional imagination to recall the sounds and spirit of voices present and joined in worship – and with the hope of soon being able to again. Consider the text of some favorite hymns. Often our hymns texts,
when examined apart from the tunes, reveal themselves in new and expanded ways. In fact, many of our texts were originally poems, and were only set to music later. Find renditions of your favorite hymns on YouTube. You might be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of beautiful and moving arrangements of songs and hymns we all know which can be found on this platform. Don’t know all the words? Hum a lot!

As we consecrate our musical gifts, let’s also remember the larger picture of the many ways we celebrate who we are as creative people – as musicians, artists, photographers, authors, architects, designers, and so many more. Even as there must have been something attractive in the songs the Jews sang to the Babylonians that they were requested, let us seek and find
the ways that our human creativity might offer, in large and small ways, something attractive and beautiful to those who may be sad around us – to those in need of hope, and ready to receive our expression, in whatever ways we can find, of celebration that we are made in the image of a creative and loving God, and that we are a people full of the knowledge that we will sing together again.