Lift Every Voice

“There’s just something about a bunch of clergy singing together.”

That’s what my friend and clergy colleague said to me during the Clergy Session at Annual Conference this year. My colleague was right – when we sang “For All The Saints” at the end of the memorial service that closes Clergy Session, we sounded fantastic. Our voices boomed and echoed and soared as we offered our music to the skies.

From there we went to the big room – the floor where clergy and laity gather to do the legislative and decision-making business of Annual Conference. Those voices that had blended together so beautifully, so harmoniously would, over the next three days, disagree. Sometimes we’d disagree amicably. Other times contentiously. Those voices would speak out loudly, angrily, tearfully, woefully, prayerfully, and woundedly. Some voices spoke into the microphone, others only under their breath. Some were arrogant. Some were humble. We don’t agree on everything. Sometimes I wonder if we agree on anything.

But man, when we SING….

When we sing, the diversity of our voices blend into a marvelous sound. When we sing, we sing the same words. When we sing, we sing with each other not against each other. Some sing melody. Some sing harmony. Some sing off-key. Some sing with technical precision. Some sing hesitantly. Some sing heartily. But we all sing together. And it is a joyful noise, a wonderful thing to behold.

A couple of years ago, I bought a great album: The Tel Aviv Session by The Touré-Raichel Collective. It’s a collaboration between guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and  keyboardist Idan Raichel. Raichel is Israeli and Jewish while Touré is a Muslim from Mali. Both are devout. Israel and Mali don’t even have diplomatic relations. They’ve now recorded two albums, but there is no logical reason they should work together at all.

Except there’s music.

The Tel Aviv Session

“Vieux and I are coming from very different worlds. But I think that the magic is to let the music speak out and create bridges between cultures, religion and geographical boundaries,” Raichel said during an interview. During the same interview, Vieux stated, “We want to demonstrate to the world that it is not only possible for Jewish and Muslim people to appreciate each other, but that they are capable of cooperating, collaborating and making something beautiful together. We are just humble musicians, but I hope this can set an example for our politicians to follow.”

Amen, brothers. From one of your Christian brothers.

[Yes, this Christian pastor connects with music recorded by Muslims and Jews. And others!]

There’s something magical about the act of singing together and playing together that transcends our differences. Those differences don’t dissolve completely away, but they become far less important than the song.

I believe that if we want peace among religions and nations, we should learn to stop warring (both figuratively and literally) over beliefs and doctrines, and learn to sing together. Learn one another’s songs. Sing in harmony to open the possibility of living in harmony.

Maybe we should stop trying to merely coexist, and start learning to sing together.

Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I believe music can give us hope that we can live together. Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and perhaps it was given so that we could learn true harmony. It won’t resolve all of our differences, but it sure is harder to hate that person singing so beautifully next to you and with you.


Author: pastorwillie

Husband to a beautiful wife, father to four awesome children, Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, pastor of a great church in rural southern Illinois, guitarist, songwriter, ukulelist, blogger.

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