We were alone in the small light-filled sanctuary. Music filled the air — ethereal voices, singing, chanting, breathtakingly beautiful sounds, a holy place. … Awesome.
I felt like I stood among invisible angels. It was an unforgettable inspirational moment. It occurred several years ago when my husband and I visited the charming old Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, N.M. Its legendary Miraculous Staircase, with no visible means of support, draws many tourists. But that day, the sounds of music affected me most.
Music has a powerful impact on the human soul. For thousands of years, music has been an integral part of faith and an important tool for effective worship, in solitude and in fellowship.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” commands Psalm 100. In Colossians 3:16, Paul urges early Christians, “With gratitude in your hearts, sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.”
In today’s churches, some variation of voices and instruments provides music leadership, giving congregations opportunities to sing praise. Music also sets moods; expresses love, passion and prayer; tells stories; and provides inspiration. And music can be one of the most controversial aspects of corporate worship.
During my service as a church music director, a congregant approached me one day, bluntly stating, “There’s nothing in worship for the kids.”
Never mind that we incorporated numerous contemporary pieces and praise songs into our blended service. For a moment I felt a little defensive. But I understood. She missed microphone-holding singers, lined up in front of the congregation, and the music style that her kids (and she) listened to every day.
Music is so personal. It may be a universal language, but we’re a long way from singing or listening to the same song. What inspires one person turns off somebody else.
Jesus came to meet people where we are, and we’re all in different places. I need the comfort of familiar old hymns and anthems. I’ve sung them for a big chunk of my life, but I appreciate many music styles. I want occasions to bounce to joyful rhythms that make eyes sparkle and to experience the new and unfamiliar. Sometimes I need to be shocked out of my rut.
God-given talents continually produce extraordinarily diverse musical options, expressing faith and glorifying God, the purpose of sacred music. That day in Loretto Chapel, angelic voices lifted me out of the mundane and drew me closer to God.
Perhaps different people hear different angels. Whatever the sound, music can become a miraculous staircase to another place.
Victoria Wyett Ferris is one of The Star’s Fath Walk writers over the last 12 months. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.