Soul Music

A group of fifteen were gathered on a Wednesday night in the basement of a golden brick church; their singing was accompanied by a keyboard, a string base, and a worn guitar.  In front of me sat four women, living on the edge of middle and old age, bellowing with great volume while struggling to follow the song leader.

To my right a young grandmother held her young granddaughter.  She rocked the girl back and forth as she breathed life into each word of each melody.  She understood written words, based in scripture, weren't just real; they were sacred and specially designed. 

Across the aisle sat an older gentleman.  I couldn't help but watch him.  He was forced to take hold of his own hand in order to control the ticks and tremors. The rough, unpracticed music seemed to calm him. 

To my left sat my parents.  They requested my attendance at this informal worship service.  I initially protested.  My mom and dad sang and read aloud, held hands, and hugged each other.  I couldn't help but feel a bit invisible, like my presence was unnoticed.

It's not that I was unwelcome.  The intimacy of that half-hour removed any exclusion; the intimacy removed personal identity. We were all there independent of one another but invested in the same God.  It was hard to understand why I was being moved by such an uncontemporary version of contemporary worship, but as the last song was played the small crowd rose to their feet.   Everyone was tapping their toes and clapping their hands, soulfully and joyfully off-beat.   I scanned the group and found perfection radiating from their smiles.  I would argue with anyone who called them simple, yet these people renewed their faith, and my own, by the "simplicity" of their worship.  Humble? Maybe.  Beautiful?  Undoubtedly so.

Written September 27, 2008