As an unredeemed six-year-old, I disliked all the music that happened in church. I could happily scribble during a sermon, but when it came time for singing, my mother would haul me to my feet, forcing me to exchange pen and crayons for a cumbersome hymnal.
I didn't like the music because it compelled me to participate in what was happening around me, interrupting my plans. Years later, on the other hand, I discovered other teenagers who knew the hymns I had grown to love, and this shocked me into a deeper understanding of what it means to have a common faith. (You can read an account of that discovery here.)
The beauty of music can be a testimony to God's grandeur, consolation to a grieving spirit, or a way to express joy that passes understanding. At the same time, it is worthwhile to consider how strange it is for any number of grown people to gather in a room and sing. Most people, religious or not, listen to music as performed by professionals, and some people join choirs or bands because they enjoy making music. However, the practice of regularly gathering in a large group to sing is one of many unusual things Christians do on Sunday mornings.
Singing makes me feel particularly vulnerable among strangers, and yet I have found myself in this new city, week after week, making music alongside people I hardly know. Why would I do such a thing?
I haven't had a voice lesson in years, I may not like the instruments this church uses, or I might grumble to see a PowerPoint screen instead of a hymnal. And yet I sing.
Yesterday I visited yet another new church. Unfamiliar building, unfamiliar people, unfamiliar song. But the strange song soon grew precious: common faith, shared hope, one Father.
For amateurs and aliens, singing doesn't make much sense. But it can help make a home.