I don’t cry during Hallmark commercials or when the violins swell in movies. That sort of stuff just doesn’t move me in the way I know it is meant to. But sometimes, out of the blue, I find myself overwhelmed with emotion which is exactly what happened yesterday:
I attended an event, “Harmony in Song,” here in my little county in central Virginia. There’s not much integration in the small country churches down South, but for the past ten years black and white churches in my county have been coming together for an annual celebration of faith in song. One year it’s held in a traditionally white church, the next in a black one. This year was at the black Baptist church just down the road from The Barn.
Good Catholic girls know how to behave in church. I know to stand up when the priest says “All rise” and I sing along happily with the hymns. What could be that different?
First up was a small group from the local Methodist Church – all white. They wore their Sunday best and lined up with their songbooks in hand. The choir director raised her arms and they began to sing the lovely spiritual “All Day Long.” I know we all thoroughly enjoyed it based on the warm round of applause the choir received as they finished and resumed their seats in the pews. Good so far, right?
Woo boy, here we go. Next up was the choir from the black Baptist church that was hosting the event. They arose from the pews or came in from the side doors – women in black dresses pinned with fuchsia peony brooches and the men in black suits with fuchsia ties. Their pianist started playing as they were coming up to the front of the church and they lined up, gently swaying side to side, as the piano music grew louder. The lead singer, tall and a bit imposing, took the microphone and welcomed us with the warmest smile imaginable. She called out “How y’all doing? You ready to praise Jesus?” And somebody replied from the pews “We’re ready!” (Are you allowed to do that?) Her words and the piano music just segued naturally into their choir beginning to sing.
Oh my. How to describe? I hesitate to even call it singing. They were rejoicing. It was loud, boisterous, and incredibly joyful. There was not one hint of timidity, of hesitation, of stage fright. No sir. They were here to Praise the Lord and did they ever – so powerfully and beautifully that I could feel my throat tighten almost immediately.
Yes, I was praying all right. Please, dear God, do not let me turn into a weeping, sobbing idiot right here in the middle of all these people. Grasping for tissues, I could hear people all around me starting to respond to the music calling out “Amen” and clapping and then, and then THEY started singing too. Are you allowed to do that? Then the pastor moved forward from the choir with the microphone and started telling his story while the choir was singing behind him and he exhorted everybody in the pews to SING! And then people started STANDING UP (!!) and clapping and waving their arms.
Well, let me tell you it was exhausting. And exhilarating. And so very beautiful. I just loved every single second of it.
I’d give anything to have recorded the music I heard on that joyful Sunday afternoon, but the best I can do is this version of what they sang, “Standin’ In The Need of Prayer.”
And indulge me in just one more version of what they sang:
And I can’t watch any more or I might start crying. We can’t have that, now can we?
And thanks for reading,