Pastoral Perspectives

The Combined Choir

Every Thursday around 7:30pm, a group of people from different walks of life would descent upon 156B Stirling Road. Weeks before the Holy Week, the number swelled and there was a buzz of activities happening. After prayer, warm up, fine tuning and some instructions, the singers were sent to different rooms to learn their parts- soprano, alto, tenor and bass. The parts were difficult! Many recorded the parts on their phones so they could memorise it. Once I went to lead the tenors, they tried their best to memorize their parts too. It sounded like the melody, but it wasn’t either. The basses had to stay low most of the time! The sopranos were of course, singing the melody but they had challenging high parts to sing too. Let me not start on the altos! After weeks of practicing separately, we gathered again to sing our parts together.

We laughed when our parts went haywire. We had to stop, catch our breath, laugh, and relearn our parts. But over time, with more practice and consistent training, it began to sound better and better. Each music score bore the mark of the training. There were circles, arrows, colours, even drawings to help them remember their parts. There was so much dedication and commitment that some even came early for practice with their take-way dinner so they can eat while listening to the recordings.

When we all got the parts right, there was pure joy and delight in the faces of the singers. The reason was because we were in harmony with each other. In simple terms, it means the voices coming out from more than 50 people were in agreement with each other’s voices. We were told to listen to one another’s voice and blend in with each other. And it was not just voices, there was rhythm, melody, and harmony. On our own, we sounded incomplete but when we came together under the baton of the conductor- breathing together, stopping together, singing together, it was magical! And yet there were moments when we had to remain silent and count the beats. That is when the music accompaniment came in. It was not until the last 2 weeks that we got to hear the full band and string ensemble coming in to hear the full glory of the music. Then came Holy Week and the Combined Choir led the people to worship God together.

The Combined Choir comprised of people from different walks of life. As our senior pastor rightly pointed out, there were females and males, young and old, members and worshippers, old and new, parents and children, singles and married, locals and foreigners. The youngest was 11 and the oldest was 70+. Some could read music and they helped the ones who couldn’t. After months of fine tuning and waiting, it was a glorious moment to hear the voices and the music at the Expo on Good Friday morning.

Our preaching through the book of Revelation is coming to its closing chapters and as I meditate on it, I can’t help but imagine how glorious it will be when all our yearning, waiting, groaning, and suffering gives way to the ultimate worship of the one true God. The Combined Choir is just a glimpse- ‘a foretaste of glory divine’ that is to come as Fanny Crosby puts it.

A look at the world around us reminds us that truly, this is not our home. The remnant of the Tower of Babel can be seen and felt even today as the world tries to make towers of many kinds. All the ugly happenings of the world can be traced to human greed and wanting to be gods. We want to build our own kingdoms, our own countries, our own kind to multiply, our own reputation, our own little kingdoms every day. The gospel of Christ goes against this very SELF-ish culture.

As God’s people, we are to live very differently from the ways of the world. We are not alone, and we are to live as a community of faith, playing our little parts. Just as the singers experienced some moments of uncertainty or even unmelodious parts, there will be times when our ministry or journey of faith might seem incomplete. If we stop doing our part, we will not be able to join the full chorus. But as we remain patient, faithful and keep doing our part, one day I am sure we will see the glorious day when all will be made right. God keeps His promises, and we can trust them.

The choir is a unique ministry where people from different walks of life is able to join. There is no age bar. No gender bar. No nationality bar. Only music bars! The only requirement is to be a believer. If a few weeks of hard work and coming together in unity can create such glorious and harmonious music unto the Lord, imagine how glorious and wonderful it will be when the church is able do likewise!

Just as each individual contributed to the magnificent sound of worship to the Lord, each of us as believers have a role to play. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 

Not everyone can play music, not everyone can sing, not everyone can preach. Not everyone can be the head too. As the body of Christ, we all play different parts in this community of faith. Before every concert, the concert master comes and tunes all the instrument so that they stay on the same pitch. Without this, the music would sound off-pitch. Our harmony with one another is like a fragrant offering unto the Lord and a testimony of our faith in Christ who brings us together.

What are we doing to fine tune ourselves so that we are in harmony with one another? May our ultimate master continue to fine tune us so that our actions will resonate the goodness, the holiness, the sweetness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May people look at the church and say, “How beautiful…the feet, the hands, the eyes, the heart, the voices, the fruit of pure lives. How beautiful is the body of Christ!”

Rev Loliro Sani

April 16, 2023