Monday, August 12, 2013

The Gift of Music

Shirley and Jerry Piger
I got the following e-mail from my friend Jerry Piger on Friday evening: "I asked our worship pastor one day if he agreed that all the great truths of the Bible could be found in the Hymns of the Church. He said he did. Based on that statement we put together a service that...will have hymn arrangements, narration and one verse of each hymn on the overhead so the congregation can meditate and pray during the music..."

Jerry is a pianist who has spent much of his life composing and arranging sacred music. I've known him for years but only recently have our lives really intersected. He loves the hymns, and has been a great resource for me as I have sought to share hymns on this blog. It was because of Jerry sharing his gift of music with me that I got up my courage and sent him some songs I had written. They were songs that I could play but had no wherewithal to get down on paper. Jerry graciously created sheet music for them and even arranged one for choir! His kindness to me was one of the most overwhelming gifts I have ever received.

So when he wrote to tell me that their Sunday service would feature a 30-minute program of hymn arrangements, played by piano, violin, and string bass, laced with narration, we knew we wanted to attend.

We drove to Newport Covenant Church in Belleuve for a service we will not soon forget. When it was time for the message, Jerry sat down at the piano, the narrator took her seat, and two lovely sisters, both college students, moved into position with their instruments. We were invited to enter into a time of worship as the theme of prayer was interwoven through spoken word and instrumental music. "Why are we so touched by music?" the narrator asked. "It is the Holy Spirit who calls to us through song."

For the next half-hour we were blessed by beautiful arrangements of songs like Sweet Hour of Prayer, There is a Fountain, Somebody's Knocking at Your Door, and What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Piano, violin, bass -- they fit together so well, lifting us to a higher plane, ushering us into quietness and grace. The words to the first verse of each hymn were projected on the screen but we did not sing. We just sat and soaked in the presence of Christ in the service.

Jerry told me later, "For years I have played hymns to myself while concentrating on the lyrics. It has been very meaningful to me but only to me. Today...the congregation was able to concentrate on a verse while the music was reinforcing the meaning. The mechanics of singing never got in the way of the words."

He told me that for 20 minutes after the service was over people came to him with tears in their eyes and gratitude on their lips. "The comments were all very similar," he said. "They felt the full impact of these hymns and it touched their souls. It was a precious time for me to see this reaction."

The church is a body, and each of us has our part to play. Yesterday's service was a demonstration of what happens when we do our part. We honor God and we bless each other.

We even bless the visitors among us!

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