VOICES IN THE DISTANCE

VOICES IN THE DISTANCE

What I’m Learning from this Time of Silence

By Douglas Grogan
It has been sixteen weeks since my last choir rehearsal.   

This is the first time, in my life, since starting college that there have been more than eight consecutive weeks without a choir rehearsal. In addition, I have missed more Sundays “on property” during this pandemic than I have in the past two decades combined.  

These are new records that I wish were not created; but yet, this pandemic has resulted in a few positive learning gains for me. My teaching obligations at Illinois Central College led me to learning how to teach online. I’ve learned how to use Zoom, Goto Meeting, Google Meet, and how best to utilize iMovie software. I’ll admit, learning these new platforms was a necessity, but it is something I have embraced. God can use all things, even a pandemic, to bring about good.

It's easy to find myself complaining about the pandemic and all the ways it has changed our lives and careers. However, there are ways that I am grateful for it. First, I am reminded how amazingly connected this vast world is. I have learned just how easy illness can spread from different parts of the world and how small steps can reduce the risk of virus transmission. 

Second, I have learned how accessibility to technology can help keep one connected; and, that if you put your mind to it, you can learn new ways of doing things. 

Third, I have been reminded that I am truly an extrovert and am energized by leading rehearsals and being with others.   

Next, I’m reminded that routine and repetition is important in my life, and that dedicated time and space with God speaks to my soul.   

Lastly, I have been reminded just how fragile life is; and, that while we all have rights, we have the moral responsibility and command from Jesus to love our neighbor. This pandemic has provided the opportunity for me to learn more of my neighbors' names and to speak to them (from a distance) as we care for one another. I am grateful because each of the aspects above provide strength to meet each day, and the hope for a better tomorrow.

I love to hear the congregation sing together.  But, I am also aware (through webinars and documentation from worldwide professional vocal music, music education, choral music, and church music organizations) that congregational singing is on hold for a while. I do not know when we will return to in-person worship, but I do know it is going to be a long time before we all burst into singing with gusto inside the sanctuary or worship center.  

I love the acts of corporate singing, responsive readings, prayers, etc. But, if I lose my voice, I can still worship God through hearing the voices of others. If I lose the ability to hear, I can still worship through the joy on the faces of others. If I lose the ability to see, I can hear the music and feel the vibrations through the floor and the pews. If I lose the ability to physically stand, nothing will stop my inner determination to stand in spirit. There is nothing that has or can separate me from worshipping God.  When we return, will worship be different from how things were in February? Yes.  Will it mean God is any less adored and glorified?  No.

I have hope for tomorrow.  It will be different; but, I hold to hope that we will all survive the coronavirus and emerge as a people ready to worship without reservation when that time comes. We all  have our stylistic and learning preferences that we connect to best. However, during these days, may we be reminded that it is our relationship with Jesus Christ that surpasses buildings, music, sermons, and the like.  True worship begins one-on-one with Jesus, the one who is the Hope of the world.

Douglas Grogan is the Director of Traditional Music at FUMC.
The FUMC sanctuary awaits the day of reopening. It's an especially empty place now that books and interaction cards have been removed in anticipation of restrictions when we are able to gather again.
Photo by Douglas Grogan