“I don’t like these new songs,” she said.
I accidentally swallowed a cherry seed. Was she talking to me? I was only the summer intern, but I had just filled in for the pastor during the morning worship service. Since the chancel area doesn’t have good air flow, I needed water, liquid, something. Something OTHER than coffee, which was all that seemed to be available during the church fellowship time. So I settled on a handful of fresh cherries. That was beginning to seem like a bad idea.
Right as I put the first one into my mouth, she found me. “I don’t like this new songbook. It doesn’t have any of the songs I know and love. They are all… contemporary.” The word takes on new meaning in a liturgical UCC congregation where the organ is still the instrument of choice. Her venom didn’t seem to notice the discrepancy, but latched on as if voice alone could kill the contemporary beast.
She told me stories about how she enjoys singing opera at home. “My family tells me I sing flat, but when I’m alone, I don’t know it. When I’m alone, I get to be the star of the opera.”
She then said something that troubled me. “I’m in my 70s, I hope not to be around 10 years from now. It’s the danger of growing old,” she continued. “The songs and art that comforted you all your life are gone, replaced by something new you can’t relate to. There is no comfort.”
No comfort? Wishing to be dead in 10 years? All over music and art? Really??
I had nothing to say. So I listened. And promised somewhere deep in my soul to remember this conversation the next time someone wants to sing one of the old hymns that make my theological teeth ache. Maybe it will help comfort. Maybe, just maybe, it will be life-giving.
What is something that brings you comfort? How can you bring comfort to someone else today?
Jennifer Harris Dault is a 3rd year M.Div. student at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She lives in St. Louis, MO, with her husband, Allyn, and two cats, Sassy and Cleo. You can find her at jenniferharrisdault.wordpress.
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