Silence is a powerful and often overlooked liturgical element.
1. Silence provides cognitive space for meditation and reflection.
2. Silence connects us to the physical space in which we are worshipping by way of allowing us to hear the room’s ambience.
3. Silence connects us with each other, because even in silence with our eyes closed we have an acoustic awareness of everyone else in the room.
4. Silence connects us with what lies on the other side of the church walls. During silence, might hear the sound of nearby traffic, airplanes overhead, distant lawnmowers, sirens, the sounds of people talking on the street. Rather than distractions, these can be important points of focus and enhance our sense of our connection to the world.
5. Silence is an easy element to introduce into a meeting or gathering outside of a regular liturgy, and it adds a powerful sense of connection.
This is a video of me leading song I wrote at our Presenters’ Retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in September. I’ve been reading the series of books named after the lines of the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful” by the British veterinary surgeon James Herriot, and this song came to me one night after reading. I didn’t even know the lines came from a hymn until I shared it at our retreat! Getting to teach my version to our talented group of presenters was a small, joyful moment that never would have been possible for me without Music that Makes Community.
It is a clear April day in Salt Lake City, Utah and the middle school choir is preparing for our big moment during the upcoming graduation ceremony when all the eighth graders will sing “Let It Be” in front of the students, parents and faculty for our K-12 school. We’re singing “Mother Mary comes to me…” when the music teacher comes over to where my friend Jessie and I are standing at the end of a row. She stands there for a minute looking at us while we all keep singing, Jessie and I looking at each other and wondering if we’re in trouble. She stops the singing and says, “Jessie honey, you don’t need to sing, you just move your mouth ok?”
Another middle school day around that time: during morning announcements there’s an invitation to come to a Eucharist service during lunchtime. Its an Episcopal school but services aren’t part of the regular schedule, so this is optional. The school chaplain is a warm, friendly woman who wears her long hair in bangs and barrettes who goes by her last name, Raggs. Sometime that morning I decide to go but don’t mention it to anyone.
Welcome to the new Music that Makes Community blog, where we will ask the question, “What Did You Notice?” This is a question we ask at every Music that Makes Community event. In many ways it is the foundation of everything we do. At Music that Makes Community, we are working to equip leaders to use the practice of paperless music to build connections in their congregations and communities. The foundation of that work is observation and inquiry, and a spirit of learning imbues every part of our approach.
I’m creating this new forum in order to keep that conversation going in the times between our gatherings and workshops. I’ll write some of the posts myself, and I’ve asked our presenters to contribute as well.
Here are the types of posts you can expect to see in the coming weeks and months:
What we do.
Music that Makes Community workshops have been happening since 2007 (the first workshop was held at St. Gregory of Nyssa in June of that year, and there have been more than thirty events across the US and Canada since then). We’ll use this space to explore our history and tell stories about those experiences and things we’ve learned along the way. We’ll explore the pedagogy we use for our teaching, as well as the theology and philosophies that underpin that teaching.
How we do it.
Anyone who’s tried it knows that learning to lead singing well is work that is never finished. The blog will also be a place you can come to for tips and advice for implementing paperless song leading.
Why we sing this way.
The reason MMC has had such staying power is that many people who attend MMC workshops are deeply moved by the experience. The work we’re doing has touched a deep nerve in the church as musicians, clergy and lay people search for ways to change and adapt to the needs of contemporary society. We’ll tell stories of witness and testimony about the transformations this work has affected in the lives of our participants and leaders.
Who “we” are.
The Music that Makes Community network includes over 1000 people who have participated in or presented at the workshops over the years, and we are a diverse, smart, creative group of people. I’ll be using our blog to post interviews with presenters and participants, as well as inviting guests to post about their work using paperless music in community life.