On Sunday afternoon my voice sounded raspy. A couple of days later, it still is. I'm not ill, but I do know that I led worship on Sunday. I also sang with the choir, which meant that my voice was pretty much in use on Sunday morning nonstop.
So why on earth do I do this to myself? If you were present on Sunday morning, you know the choir was 13 people strong. Certainly my voice would not have been missed. Certainly I could have sat this Sunday out and just did the pastor-y things and saved my voice. But still, there I was, running back and forth between the choir loft and the pulpit. But why?
The short answer is because I wanted to. The longer answer requires a bit of context. You see, I haven't sung as part of a choir since I was in middle school--and then, it was only because it was a part of the middle school curriculum. I have virtually no training. I can barely read music. And I require a strong singer next to me so that I can match my voice to theirs. I miss a number of notes. I read the wrong verse sometimes. But always...ALWAYS...I find something deep and true when I sing with others.
You see, the long answer to why I sing and lead worship all in the same Sunday, is that leading worship rarely affords me the opportunity to actually worship. But when I sing, I'm not the leader of anything. I'm just another alto in a sea of other altos, sopranos, tenors, and basses. I'm not expected to carry the song myself--in fact, it's best if I don't. I'm only expected to "jump on the train" (as Kent Jager says) of the song along with others and let the music carry us someplace new. Someplace different. Someplace, I think at least, a little closer to the Divine. Someplace--incidentally--that I just don't think I could get to myself.
So, my voice is tired today. But, OH, my spirit is full. Not because I am the best singer. Not because I am the best preacher. Not because I'm trying to "do it all." My spirit is full because I entered the song. I entered the song, I melded into something larger than just myself, and I was reminded how the Spirit of God moves through quarter notes and half rests. I was reminded of how God shows up in a familiar refrain. I was reminded of the holy thing that happens when just 2 or 3--or even 13--of us join together.
That's why I sing...what about you?
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.