From the desk of Fr. Andrew

January 2019

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God so long as I have being (Psalm 104:33)

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

You can, so I will, make the argument in favor of communal singing. Thus, one could make the counterargument, but I do not. Rather, I see the usefulness/practicality that comes from communal singing. I recognize the splendor and beauty (especially with our choir and chanters here on Park Blvd.) of having the choir and/or our chanters offer the hymns of the Church. However, I also recognize that the majority of the community is then left out of learning and offering the hymns of the Church for themselves. They are deprived of singing praises to God not only within the context of the divine services of the Church but maybe more importantly, outside of that context as well - within their daily walk with the Lord. Thus, the usefulness/practicality is lost.

I see the usefulness/practicality as threefold: 1) Intellectual 2) Emotional 3) Spiritual.

Intellectual because you do have to spend some time learning the words, melody, rhythm of a hymn, which by the way, most hymns of the Church were created so that with just a little effort anyone can learn to execute a hymn; how well that's done will depend on your voice (smile). Learning the hymns of the Church is a good way to exercise your brain. It is kind of like a "brain workout" app as a good way to keep your mind sharp.

Emotional because singing is a good way to relieve stress and in the process you are calling upon the name of the Lord, which can be very comforting. Singing is a natural and organic response of our minds and bodies, especially in times of joy. It is part of who and what we are as human beings, as Orthodox Christians, especially as found in Scripture.

Spiritual because we rejoice with the Psalmist and all those who throughout the many, many ages have lifted up their voices to the Lord. As Orthodox Christians, music and song play such an important part within the divine services. Why wouldn't you want to join all those who throughout the ages have opened their mouths in song to God? Good voice or not, it is the effort and the blessing that comes from singing and offering the hymns to God.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I share all this with you because Katherine Meck and I have been collaborating for some time with regard to the importance of communal singing. Our beautiful choir and dedicated chanters will continue to sing and chant but we are going to try to incorporate more voices at the front end of the Divine Liturgy; i.e. the Liturgy of the Word. Specifically, the Liturgy of the Word basically takes place from te start of the Divine Liturgy until the Symbol of Faith, i.e. the Creed. So, the hymns we are talking about will basically include the (3/4) hymns offered at the time of the Small Entrance and ending with the Άγιος Ο Θεός. The idea is to have the choir stay in the choir loft and to have Katherine come to the front of the solea and direct us all from there. After the Άγιος Ο Θεός is sung/offered, Katherine and the choir will then take us through the more intricate and complex hymns of the Church as we enter the second part of the Divine Liturgy: the Liturgy of the Faithful.

Please know we are NOT making a change forever. We are trying something new and actually we are returning to our musical roots as an Orthodox Church. In the early Church and for many, many years there weren't elaborate and beautiful choirs in every parish, per se to execute all the hymns of the Church. The priest and others taught the other faithful to sing and offer the hymns as their way to actively better participate in the divine services of the Church. Yes, over time there grew a wonderful tradition of singers be it choir members, per se and chanters whose role it was to offer the beautiful hymns on behalf of the faithful. However, this led to a less active and uninvolved laity passively listening to the hymns.

So, I hope you will agree that the time has come to return to our musical roots as one way for you to be more actively engaged in the divine services. Right now we are on track to begin this return sometime at the end of January 2019. Prior to that time I will offer some basic instruction from the solea about the hymnology of the Church for 2/3 weeks at the time of my sermon/homily. For this attempt to bear fruit will require you to continue to be present at the start of the Divine Liturgy and attentive. It will require you to be patient and supportive, and dedicated and committed to some simple instruction and most of all the willingness to lift up your voice to the Lord.

God's continued blessing, +Fr. Andrew