to the basses and baritones

wedding 002God gave men a special kind of gift. I discovered it as a little girl, leaning my knobby elbow on my dad’s knee during church. I know it now too, when my I put my arm through my husband’s when we sit together in the pew.

It’s that low, deep rumble that is a man’s voice when he sings.

Men are good at singing. And the Church is particularly good at providing them with song.

But fewer and fewer men are singing in church. Maybe it’s because they’re embarrassed. Maybe it’s because we’ve had an influx of songs that are just awkward for men to sing. (“You are my desire And no one else will ‘Cause nothing else can take Your place To feel the warmth of Your embrace.” Well, that’s uncomfortable.) Maybe they think that no one’s watching, that no one cares.

But we are watching. And we do care. And we really, really want you to sing.

So, you grade schoolers and fathers and college students and uncles and tenors and sons, please let us hear that rumble.

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Even if your voice cracks.

Even if it wobbles.

Even if you can’t tell a C from an E.

Just sing.

By singing, you will teach us something.

You will remind us that everything we do in worship space matters, that it conveys something, that it tells us something about what we believe and confess.

You will cause us to think on the way in which we move and act and dress in church.

You will show us that church is different from the movies, that it’s not like going to the mall, and that what happens within those walls is far more than our slacker, sinful self wants to realize.

And then know too that when you choose not to sing, that teaches something.

When you refuse to crack a hymnal, that teaches something.

When you sigh in exasperation and start reading the bulletin instead, that teaches something.

You can still teach. But teach us that the Church’s song matters.

Teach us that God has given us His Word and that we have the joy of singing it back to Him in the liturgy.

Teach us  that our Lutheran hymnody is rich and bold and hearty. (“And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom our remaineth.” I mean, that’s like a Lutheran version of Braveheart right there!)

Teach us that when our pastor says, “With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying,” and we let loose with, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory,” we really are singing with all the company of heaven: Adam and Eve, Vernon, St. Paul, Margaret, Baby, Martin Luther. And then sing with us!

Teach us that it’s more than just okay for us to sing.

That’s it actually good for us to sing.

That Christ has given us words to sing that aren’t uncomfortable and awkward, but that are perfect for soothing our consciences, pointing us to Him, filling us with joy.

Teach us that.

Let us hear you sing.

We need you to.

We know you will.

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8 thoughts on “to the basses and baritones

  1. Nicely presented, and very encouraging. As a former Church Musician (Episcopal & RC), and now an Orthodox priest, I have an unfathomable love for Liturgical music and singing – especially congregational singing. It manifests the living witness of communal prayer and the fullest Tradition of the Church (notice the upper-case T). I am blessed in my Orthodox parish here in Upstate NY to have a congregation that has adapted, more and more, to the practice and beauty of congregational singing – especially the men in the parish. “Glory to God in all things.”

  2. My husband can sing about 4 different notes and sings them all loudly, every Sunday, every hymn, and to his own timing. It is fantastic!

  3. A while back our church hosted a Pastor’s conference with a special service with the Pastors. To hear a church full of men singing along with our choir was fantastic.

  4. I never understood why people, both men and women, don’t sing all the stanzas of all the hymns for the service. It’s always one of the highlights of my day.

  5. My husband always sings out with gusto in church, but, alas, my late father, a lifelong Lutheran wouldn’t sing because of something negative a teacher or someone else said when he was young. I love our singing church where the men sing as well as the women, teens, and children.

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