Not Your Mama’s Church Choir!


Can we talk about the choir at the GCN conference? Oh. My. Gosh. What a beautiful and amazing group of mostly gay men, a few lesbian women and some parents. The voices. The harmonies. Brought tears to my eyes. But beyond the voices was the spirit: of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…

Early on in the conference, they announced that the choir would sing Sunday morning, anyone welcome, only two rehearsals, an hour max each. I really wanted to sing! I also had a vendor’s table to offer my new book and to meet and talk with people, including those I’d connected with online I would meet here for the first time. So I tracked down choir director Ben Shopland, explained about my table, and asked if would it be possible to sing anyway. (I’d been trying to sort out how to make it work; perhaps they were songs I already knew?) Ben said, “No problem.” He sent me a link so I could listen to the songs on my own. Joy!

The conference overflowed with workshops and lunches with new friends and talks into the night, but I did manage to listen to the songs. The music was stunning. Breathtakingly beautiful. I found my harmony part on each and was ready to go.

Sunday morning, I found my way to the choir, and Ben handed me music and told me where to stand. That was it. That’s all it took. No lengthy explanations, no one looking at me sidelong because I hadn’t been to the rehearsals… like a misplaced cog in an authority hierarchy. Ben and the choir treated me with respect – just exactly like I was a real adult. In fact, these beautiful people in the choir were full of love and grace. Period.

My kids and I have been on music teams in the past. The rule has always been, “No rehearsal, no singing Sunday morning.” I get that! Especially when you’re talking about teenagers who want to sing but not go to practice. I understand drawing lines, even though it made me sad when my son could not participate Sunday mornings the weeks he had to work during Wednesday night rehearsal. It was not an excuse; it was actual work, a real and responsible job. Sad that he not only worked hard and long hours, he was also denied his great joy to sing Sunday morning. If you’ve sung in churches, you probably understand this, as we did, to be just part of Christendom. Just the way it is.

Yet, here I was being offered a whole new paradigm. Yes, Susan, you can sing. We trust you as an adult to deal with what you need to deal with (the exhibitor’s table) and to come sing. No one resented me. What a joy that was!

It brings to mind a beautiful parable Jesus told of the master who hired workers throughout the day, and at the end of the day pays them all the same amount. They are prone to grumbling that the all-day worker got as the same pay as the last-hour worker, but Jesus says, “Don’t be like that. Be grateful for what I given you, and don’t compare yourself to others.” This small and simple event of singing in the choir was a beautiful, lived out example of exactly what Jesus was talking about. These choir members found the joy in singing, and of including.

Thank you, all of you, for being Jesus to me. I am in tears yet again that you, so thrashed about by hardships, have emerged like beautiful smooth polished stones from a rock tumbler to shine with life and beauty.

I love you with the wellspring of Christ’s love in me.

7 thoughts on “Not Your Mama’s Church Choir!

  1. I play international hand drums and even have a CD out. I went to my daughters church and ran into the worship minister and I told him if he would like me to come play my drums with his praise band l would be happy too. What did I get but a strange look and a “you would have to audition first”… I did not know I was signing up for American Idol! Even church music has become exclusive… what happen to make a joyful noise? Kudos to Ben and you for singing for the Lord.

    • Thank you, Richard! I agree. We have been in that position too. I mean, it comes down to crowd control, honestly. Pastors, music pastors, are not really trained to listen and respond to the Holy Spirit, as a living, moving being “who will guide us in all truth,” as John 16:13 says. Who knows what He would do?? Hahaha! Bless you, my friend.

  2. Susan, I so hear you on this…my husband and I have both been in choirs much of our lives…and together at our church in Phoenix. I still occasionally have dreams about our choir director there giving me the evil eye because I haven’t made it to rehearsal. Definitely brave of you to sing without being able to make it to rehearsal! And so so wonderful that they included you!!

  3. You covered this perfectly! I was totally blessed by the choir on Sunday morning, and the ensembles, and the liturgical service. Yep, totally blessed. (Thanks for being BRAVE enough to stand up and sing out without making it to all of the practices. 😉 )

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