This year’s stewardship theme is Sharing Strength – Building Faith – Gifts United in Christ. The Stewardship Committee invited members of the choir to talk about how our pledges support our congregation’s worship and music.
For me, music has been a key part of how I’ve grown in faith. One of my earliest memories is of being surrounded by a sea of blue choir robes while my parents rehearsed, and even today, there are times I sit up straighter when I hear a scripture passage, realizing I know what’s coming because I’ve sung the words in a hymn or an anthem.
Music helps us remember. It also brings us together in worship. Studies have shown that when we sing together, our heartbeats synchronize. When Stan plays the organ and we sing a hymn, we’re sharing strength and building faith. When Taisha works with our youth choirs, we are building faith and memory – maybe someday they too will sit up a little straighter when they hear something that they’ve sung.
Our pledges support our worship and music, building our faith and community. I hope you’ll support our church with a financial pledge this year, so we can keep singing, together.
You’ve heard about stewardship these last several weeks, and today I’m going to talk about it as it relates to music at New York Avenue.
My father was a preacher’s kid, so we went to church. I’ve been to a lot of church services. There are some sermons that have stuck with me over the years, and certainly some scripture that’s very familiar—some I know by heart. But the music is what has the power to bring me back to a time, a place, a feeling of being part of a community and of being loved by them and by God.
The first hymn I learned was probably “Jesus Loves Me,” and I can still picture the Sunday school classroom where we sang it when I was 3 or 4 years old—and put our offering in a little bank shaped like a church. When we sing the hymns I grew up with—like “Holy, Holy, Holy—I think of my home church. And when we sing “Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty,” or “Now Thank We All Our God” (which was our introit today), I think of our wedding day, because those are the hymns we used. I love seeing the children of this church singing or playing their instruments, and it reminds me of how supported I felt when I did that as a kid; I knew that my church family would love me no matter how I played the flute. I hear my parents’ favorite music, and I think of them, and of my mother’s certainty that when she got to heaven she’d finally be a singer. It’s fitting that at memorial services, the preludes are often “hymns of the faith”—they really carry us from birth to death.
What does this have to do with stewardship? Pledging helps the Session plan the budget, and fulfilling those pledges helps pay for Stan, and for our wonderful choral associates, who add so much to the choir. They pay for the instrumentalists who join us sometimes—what would Easter be without brass, or some of the special pieces we sing, without strings? They pay for Taisha’s leadership of the children’s choirs, and new music for them to sing. And organs and pianos aren’t instruments you can just buy and forget—they need regular tuning and maintenance, and consistent temperatures and humidity in the sanctuary to sound their best. All of that requires money.
We as Presbyterians believe that the Word is central—not only the Word preached and read, but the Word sung and interpreted in music. Protestants have been singing “A mighty fortress is our God” for 500 years. Music is an important part of worship, and of the life of this church, and your pledges help ensure that it will continue to be. Thank you.