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Greenwood Forest Baptist Church

Together in this Sacred Space: Meditation on Music for 9/11/16

During worship on September 11 we will premiere a new hymn I wrote a couple months ago for the Hymn Society's annual hymn competition. The hymn is called, "Together in this Sacred Space." It won an honorable mention, and will be posted on the Hymns Society's website over the next few months so that congregations around North America can use it if they wish. You can see the winning text and the honorable mentions here.

"Together in this Sacred Space" focuses on music's role in faith formation, a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It is particularly appropriate for our service on September 11 because during the service we will be commissioning our teachers and caregivers, ordaining a new deacon, and commissioning the new deacon board for service. As we meditate on our lay leadership's role in serving and discipling our broader congregation, I thought it would be fitting to sing about spiritual formation as well.

The first verse of the hymn describes how congregational singing unifies the Body of Christ. When we engage our bodies in the act of singing, not only do we breathe together, but research shows that our hearts begin to synchronize as the sound waves we emit join together in the air. Oddly enough, this effect is maximized when singing in unison, the type of singing we do in church. One of the Holy Spirit's primary functions is to unify people, and we can rely on the Holy Spirit to move through our song and shape our hearts to desire the Reign of God. 

The second verse depicts music's role in different stages of life, beginning with our shrill cries as newborn babies. We soon learn to use our voices to praise our Creator and music becomes a companion on life's journey. As we age, music remains with us to comfort us and remind us of God's goodness and our place in the beloved family of God. Verse three begins by referencing St. Augustine's famous quote: The one who sings, prays twice. Augustine understood that something mysterious happens when we sing; singing communicates on a deeper, more fundamental level than verbal language alone. This makes it a powerful collective exercise for the people of God, especially when united with theologically sound texts. The second half of verse three describes singing as participation in an out-of-ordinary time activity, as communion with the saints through time who have lifted up their voices to praise God and continue to do so in heaven. The final verse is a doxology that describes the Trinity's active presence in the life of faith, leading us ever closer to the kingdom of God.

I pray that the singing of this hymn will be a meaningful experience for GFBC as we celebrate our teachers, our caregivers, and our deacons, and prepare for another year together as disciples of Christ. 

Grace and peace,

Rev. Stacks

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