Sunday, February 28, 2010

Singing in the old church's choir

I am a member of a church that emphasizes biblical truth because the convenient, community-oriented church I used to attend taught too many things that conform to the doctrines of political correctness, and I couldn't stay in a place where that was the case.

That church felt like a real family, complete with lots of middle-aged choir ladies worrying about whether you're dating because they actually know you by name and always want to hear what's going on in your life.  It was a beautiful building, a smallish neo-Gothic cathedral with copious and lovely stained glass, a gorgeous organ, and an acoustic to revel in.

We just had a concert there, and even though I haven't attended in about 4 years now, they all still know me.  They knew me two years ago during my disastrous attempt to sing their Christmas Eve service with them (my music disappeared while we were getting robed up, and I had it marked up copiously in order to not screw things up, so I had to sing very cautiously, and it was not a lot of fun).  They know me when I help them out at their State Fair booth every summer.  When they stop by my workplace, they say hello.  They asked me at the concert, "So, when are you going to come back and sing in the choir again?"

The thing I loved most about that church was singing in the chancel choir.  Every single week (except over the summer), we got to make music in a beautiful space that makes every song sound special, even the boring and clunky ones.

I joined a small group at my church and then started leading one.  I was a real member of my new church.  I even sang in their festival choir but not in the weekly choir because our building has no acoustic, really, and the songs are all in English and not usually lovely.

I thought that in my maturity, I had gotten over my desire to sing in the old church's choir, but it seems I haven't.  I still want to.  If given the choice at 9:30 between attending an age-segregated "Sunday school" for adults at my Bible-preaching church or singing every week in that lovely space, I know what I want.  I could even be back to my real church for the service at 11.

But would that be a right thing to do?

I don't know.  It feels fundamentally disloyal.  You can only serve one master, right?  If you try to serve more than one, you are divided: your heart, your time, your attention, your love.  But we're not talking about loyalty to God here, are we?  Just where my body is on Sundays and Wednesday nights.  And my body will be in the right place at 11.  It will just be elsewhere at 9:30.  There is nothing wrong with that, is there?  So why does it feel like it would be wrong?

I don't like the way this thinking tears at me, the way it dichotomizes beauty and truth.  I feel like it's a false dichotomy here, like I'm making it something it's not.

Perhaps I am over-thinking, making things difficult for myself because that's what I do best.  Maybe it's not even an issue to fill up on beauty at one place and truth in another.

We're going through I Corinthians as a church, and last week we talked about liberty and conscience (chapter 8, if you're curious, and you should go read it right now several times because it's that great).  If the Bible doesn't speak against something, no other Christian can tell us it's wrong.  They're free to disapprove until the cows come home, but that's life.  We live for Christ, not to make other people happy.

If the Bible doesn't speak against something, but your conscience is uneasy because you think doing that thing is sinful, then you shouldn't do it.  For as long as your conscience tweaks you, you just shouldn't do it, no matter what anyone else says or does.  It is you who will stand before your master and be judged for your actions, not the Joneses or your friends.  Know your weaknesses; listen to your conscience; let the Holy Spirit guide you.

It also doesn't hurt to be sensitive to the weaknesses of those around you.  Whatever you do, don't try to force someone else to go against conscience because if you do, you become responsible in a way.

Talking about reasons and whys and convictions is perfectly fine.  As we grow in Christ as people and interact and discuss with others, our thinking changes.  Slowly, we grow in knowledge and understanding and sometimes, when we're not even looking, we change our minds.  Sometimes, things we were once violently opposed to because of conscience become non-issues with our new insights on the situation.  Suddenly we can do things without sinning that would have been sin for us to do once upon a time.  It's kind of breathtaking the way we bounce off each other and make each other different people.

With that in mind, back to my dilemma. I am not going to go against my conscience here, but I would be interested to hear arguments for and against singing with the old church choir.  What do you think?  What does love do in this situation?

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