Continuing on with contemplating spiritual practices, we can turn to the spiritual practice of singing. Perhaps you haven’t thought of singing as a spiritual practice before. But it certainly can be! In Seminary I learned about the Oxyrhynchus Hymn. It’s the earliest known manuscript of a Christian hymn that contains both musical notation and lyrics (written in Greek.) It dates back to the 3rd Century. Think about that for a moment. It’s proof that early Christians were incorporating music into how they worshiped God in community together from the beginning of Christianity.
Singing hymns with one another in worship can certainly be considered a communal spiritual practice, much like prayer. We sing the songs of our faith that were passed down to us from generation to generation. We sing newer hymns, choir anthems, and choral introits that somehow become new favorites. Singing hymns helps us learn the stories of our faith. Can you imagine a Christmas Eve service with no singing for instance? Music is an essential part of any worship service. The pandemic has made singing complicated. We did not have congregational singing for quite some time, and that wasn’t easy. Though perhaps the absence of hymn singing together helps us appreciate singing as a communal spiritual practice all the more.
John Wesley (who began the Methodist Movement within the Church of England), once provided directions for singing. These directions can sometimes be found in the Introductory section of hymnals because they remain helpful to consider They are:
-See that you join with the congregation
-Sing lustily and with good courage
-Strive to unite your voices together
-Sing in time
-Above all, sing spiritually*
Whether you are with our congregation in the sanctuary worshiping in person or watching a service online at home, sing out! Singing can be considered a spiritual practice and one way that we can live out our Christian faith. Make a joyful noise to God! Even if you’re not the most talented singer around, sing lustily and with good courage!
*As outlined by Robin Knowles Wallace in “Singing as a Communal Spiritual Practice,” Ministry Matters, April 7, 2012, https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/2646/singing-as-a-communal-spiritual-practice
Thursday Thoughts 8/26/21