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The Power of Music

My new house is right across the Yale Divinity School and today I joined the community for their daily worship service. The moment the music started I began to get teary-eyed and I remained that way for the whole 30-minute prayer and praise service. I felt so surrounded by power and goodness and I realized how often those feelings come along with music for me.

Mark Miller and the Marquand Gospel Choir sang an amazing service filled with joy, gratitude, relinquishment, and even laughter! The reading for the day, the “parable of the prodigal” (Luke 15:11-24), was adapted to be a sort of musical with pop songs. What joy and merriment this brought into the chapel. And yet, there were also moments of pure heaven as the voices sang, “Justice! Kindness! Walk humbly with you God!”

Glenn Clark recognized the potential for song to being harmony and unity to a group and music is now an integral part of CFOI camps. Marsha Johnson recently recalled to me being at the CFO International camp in Nairobi, Kenya listening to the amazing music from people of the African CFO camps. She described being surrounded by the beautiful sound and I could hear that the power of that music was still a tangible experience for her, even five years later. Also, many of our Spirit in Action coordinators use song as a way to bring people together at the beginning of SIA Small Business Training workshops.

Pygmy (indigenous) man in the Buziralo Jungle of DR Congo plays the drum as a call to worship.

Pygmy (indigenous) man in the Buziralo Jungle of DR Congo plays the drum as a call to worship. Photo by Jacob Lipandasi

Indeed this harmony in music, uniting people of many cultures, is one of the central principles of Taizé, an international, ecumenical community in France. I visited with my family in the summer of 2006, along with 4,500 youth and 500 adults from all over the world. Three times each day, the whole group came together for services, which included simple chant-like songs and periods of silence for individual meditation, reflection and communion with God. The peace created by 5,000 people from countless different backgrounds singing and praying in many languages was so real for me. The amazing energy from such a group makes peace of earth feel within reach. That possibility for goodness was the same feeling I felt this morning and which stays with me now.

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