When the Soul Sings

I heard it on the TV, it was being shared across thousand of Facebook pages, a request for Christians to join in song and I knew that on Sunday morning I would be standing in a church singing 'In Christ Alone'.  It would be an act of solidarity by Christians; a shaking of our faithful fists at the evil which continues to rock the world.  I was ambivalent about it and that confused me.  Why would I have any hesitation about joining in singing a song in response to the tragedy of the Bosma family?

My ambivalence was fuelled by both hopelessness and helplessness.  I questioned how singing a song could even begin to bring any comfort to a widow and two year old thousands of kilometres away.  I wondered at the apparent futility of the action, but some small part of me was curious about how it would turn out.  So off to church we went on Sunday morning.

The service went pretty much as planned, church services are generally extremely predictable in the tradition I worship in.  There is an order to the worship that has been raised to the level of sacred; the order that is not necessarily the worship.  A certain number of songs are sung at particular points though out the service, and that number might increase or decrease by one in a given week depending on the number of verses in the selections.  The usual elements of surprise were present - would the sound guy would have the mike set right or would we be rudely drawn into worship by the screech of feedback?  Would the children's message be a source of entertainment?

Our pastor invited the children to come to the front of church part way through the service descending from his official pulpit to talk with them at their level.  Truthfully, I could skip all the rest of church and just take the children's message.  There was a perky little one who wanted to tell the pastor all about a trip to the zoo, challenging the pastor's ability to weave that enthusiastic feedback into something that didn't embarrass their parents who were sitting in the pew.  As I listened I could sit back and truly enjoy watching the kids unfiltered interaction with their pastor and my soul sang.

The service wore on and eventually it was time to sing that song, the one that had already been sung several hours earlier by thousands of Christians in eastern Canada.  The one that would be sung an hour later on the west coast.  We did it; we rose from our seats, joined our voices and sang the words, "In Christ alone, my hope is found..."  We did it in the timeless tradition of Christians around the world who are facing sorrow, uncertainty, and helplessness.  The instruments stopped and the voices blended, rising in intensity with the depth of a community of souls grieving across time and space while clinging to shreds of hope.  And I was reminded of why I went to church and why I will continue to go.

Christians are a messed up lot just like the rest of the world, and churches are not perfect places.  But when the chips are down, when our backs are against the wall, Christians pull together in a community that transcends our own brokenness to unleash songs of the soul.  We sing at funerals, we sing at weddings, we sing at baptisms, it's what we do. So for the widow and the child, we sang through our tears even when nothing seemed right in our world, "He is my light, my strength, my song".