Reclaiming Our Song and Telling Our Story

May all the lands be joyful before you, O God, serve you with gladness and come before your presence with a song.

— Psalm 100:1

I understand that the St Timothy’s Episcopal Church community has engaged in opportunities for conversation and listening on the life of the congregation. I was honored to experience such a wonderful exchange of energy and thoughts this past Sunday. Through this listening session, I was reminded that in many ways our understanding of where we have been informs us where we are now. By examining the stories of our past, we are better equipped to breathe life into our present.

It is exciting to see a worship community claim ownership of its music. This ownership is even more compelling when we begin to recognize what I like to call the song of story. Our songs and prayers are part of the rich history and tradition we’ve inherited as a worshiping people. In embracing this tradition, we enrich our own lives and eventually pass this same legacy on to those who follow after us.

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            The phrase “music ministry” ought not to be a euphemism; to relay the term in such a “catch all” fashion seems to undermine the vitality of music and spirit. Outside of corporate worship, various groups within the community use music to witness, pray, teach, nurture, enrich, and express the delight we experience encountering God.  It is our joy as a worshiping people to create an environment where this can occur. It is the physical manifestation of the song of our story, both as individuals and as a greater church community.

            As I sit here and write this, I wonder what my own song would say. How has my song been transformed over the years?

I begin to recognize a number of experiences and opportunities that have informed and transformed my song in many distinct ways. I remember key players such as Mark Munson and Tom Merrill who gave me the life and musical opportunities (many of which I may not have deserved, in retrospect) that have intrinsically molded the song of my story. I remember the portion of my life spent in Ghana, West Africa where I learned to live simply, to simply live, to worry less, to appreciate more, and how to deal with tapeworms. I remember many long evenings spent slaving over books with college roommates and friends who have shaped both my song and story in ways I can hardly put into words. I remember the first time I conducted choral works in the Salzburg Cathedral and the joy I felt in first standing in front of my first symphony orchestra. I also remember the tearful reunion with my mother after my first semester abroad living in Italy. This list can go on forever; unfortunately (maybe fortunately for you) I only have a page of text I can relay at this time.

            On a more personal level, my story can be expressed through the literal creation of song. My being resonates when I create music. When I stand in front of a choir and empower others to discover their song, my soul ignites. When I experience music, my faith cannot be contained to a mere euphemism. My story seeks to bring music to others.

            I realize the rich history of my song. Intentional and authentic introspection of my song history informs my being in ways I may have never even realized. My individual song gives much to my concept of communal and corporate worship. The constant redefinition in understanding my story helps me claim ownership of my song.

What does your song say? How can you better understand the song of your story? How can you use your song to paint a new story as a worshiping community?

Daniel Parsley, Director of Music