"Our Voices are Joined Together"
My son has a cute bedtime routine that includes praying for his train set and his baby brother as well as singing a song of his choice. For about two years, we sang “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight.” Let me tell you, nothing makes you love a song more than singing it every day for two years. In the last few months, however, his repertoire has increased and now includes, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Feliz Navidad, Angels We Have Heard on High, Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, and the Doxology. Mind you, he doesn’t know all the lyrics to these songs, but he’ll sing along with great gusto.
We had some family visiting recently who joined us one night during this bedtime routine. When we got to the singing, he wanted to run through much of his repertoire. As we all were singing a Christmas carol, in February, he blurts out, “Wait. Stop. Our voices are joined together!” The look on his face was one of utter amazement and sheer enjoyment. It was as if it was the first time he realized that multiple voices singing together can make one voice.
Then after a dramatic pause, he lead us right back into the middle of the verse.
This moment reminded me of a podcast interview with Davin Youngs who is a voice teacher and creator of the Voxus Experience. In the interview, he cites a study in which researchers found that when a choir creates music by singing together, the heartbeat of each choir member syncs with one another. The act of singing and breathing together has the power to physically unite individuals. How crazy is that?
I think this is one reason why concerts can be so powerful, or spiritual even. I remember seeing my favorite musicians perform at the House of Blues in Boston. Afterward, the gentleman sitting next to me sat still staring at the stage as if he was stunned. Eventually, he turned to me and said, “I’m not a religious person, but that, that was a spiritual experience for me.”
And it’s true. There is something indescribable and mysterious about concerts. They can be artistically and spiritually rewarding experiences that do something to us at our soul level. As research shows, something happens to people as they gather, breathe together, and sing. Whether they know it or not, people are being physically united at their deepest level.
This is why I believe singing together in a church environment is so powerful and important for those who follow the Christian tradition. Our coming together, breathing together, and singing together can unite us at a deep level. Our hearts can literally sync. We are united physically and spiritually in ways we can’t do on our own.
Outside of those moments in church, there is much that will divide us; race, class, and gender, for instance. We are often divided by age and ability. Sometimes our own anxiety, loneliness, or stress levels hinder us from being with people. Increasingly, we are much more face-to-phone than we are face-to-face. And, if we’re truly honest, I think our hearts actually crave being synced with other hearts more than it craves a ‘like’ or ‘follow.’
There, in that congregation, we are vulnerable with one another. We breathe together. We sing together. We recite the truths of our faith. And in response to such vulnerability, something mysterious occurs. Our voices begin to be one. Physically, our hearts begin to beat together. Spiritually, our souls begin to be together. What once had the power to keep us separated is no more and at our deepest levels, we are united. A mystery created by the Ultimate Mystery.
And for those of us who believe that when we gather together the Divine Spirit is present in our midst, it is one of the ways we live and move and have our being. It is one of the ways we are present to the One always present to us, united to the Breath (ruach or pneuma for you Hebrew and Greek fans) that is as close to our very breath, and one with the One God of our faith.
Profound. Beautiful. Mysterious.
“Wait. Stop. Our voices are joined together!” My son’s declaration was just the beginning. So too are our hearts and souls.