No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Jesus’ name,
The saviour of mankind.
from “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,”
translated from twelfth-century Latin by Edward Caswall
One of the greatest gifts of singing in a choir is joining my voice with those of others in lifting the name of Jesus in joyous harmony, planting the lyrics of anthem and hymn deep in my heart. To experience this weekly at PHPC makes worship an act of love to God; to do it in three of the ancient cathedrals of the British Isles creates memories of resounding beauty to God’s glory that we will always remember.
On our recent choir tour to England and Scotland, the delight of spending time with friends in choir, deepening relationships and exploring new ones, making connections while breaking bread and sitting on buses and trains exploring history, culture and faith journeys of the peoples who have lived there for millennia, the PHPC Sanctuary Choir centered our time in rehearsing and singing in Durham Cathedral, St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, and St. Mary’s Scottish Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. To sing the Verdi Requiem in Durham with a remarkable brass band was certainly the experience of a lifetime for many of us. St. Mary’s Cathedral provided the most remarkable acoustics we experienced, and it was a blessing to hear the gifts we offered to God there come back to our ears and hearts. Every place we visited was a concert of color and sound.
For me, the highpoint of our singing was the evening of music at St. Giles. For some of us, it was a fitting ending to a day of worshipping with the familiar voice and sight of Rev. Matthew Ruffner as he preached from the ancient pulpit of St. Giles, the same spot from which John Knox had preached centuries before in the church considered to be the Mother Church of Presbyterians. We usually see Matthew from the choir loft perspective, and this was a unique opportunity to hear his sermon from a new angle!
Steve Jobman and Michael Groff had prepared us well to meld music and words of those anthems, creations that respond to God’s remarkable creation, his great gift in Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide and nurture. The pipes of the cathedral organ soared and trembled in beauty as Bradley played the first half of the concert. The ancient stones reverberated with sounds of voices and nature’s elements that have been heard there for hundreds of years.
At each place we sang, each place we ate and toured and met those of other nations and cultures, we were greeted with a hospitality and graciousness that drew us in the Spirit’s tether,” as the hymn says. To share and to serve and to enrich our community together on this journey will carry us through the years to come. And in the words of Charles Wesley in our final anthem,
Come. Almighty, to deliver, let us all Thy life receive.
Suddenly return and never, nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.
Charles Wesley, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”