Recently in service we had the opportunity to experience the power of gospel together. Our Eno River Singers and Beloved Community Chorus joined with singers from One Human Family, accompanied by a powerful rhythm section, all under the baton of Dr. Raymond Wise. While not everyone personally espouses the religious traditions at the roots of gospel, the undeniable energy in the room demonstrated that we were sharing a profound spiritual experience nevertheless. What was that "thing" that for many of us would not be explained by naming any one particular religious belief at its source? How could those of UU, Christian, Humanist, Atheist, and many many other backgrounds come together and have such a similar powerful moment?
Dr Wise pointed out how repetition allows listeners to pick up a melody, become familiar with it, begin to harmonize, and then grow more comfortable. All this is true, but is this where the power lies? It's certainly a component. We do sing many hymns in worship that we know quite well, and yet we don't always generate the kind of energy that we shared a couple of weeks ago, Something else must be at work.
Some have called it "embodied participation." On our singing Sundays, once our choir learns all the notes and rhythms, and words, and choral nuances, only then can the real work begin. Finally we get to focus on the real delivery of message, the moment when one is ready to put everything in context and become the music. When our congregation does this, it means the books have all been put away, the body is free to move, the voice is free to shout, and the spirit is free to emerge. We got there together. it was wonderful. We can do it with or without a band, or a hundred extra voices in our midst. What it means to each of us when we get there is a personal spiritual matter. For some, it's proof of heaven, for others its proof of music, and for some, its letting go.