Last weekend we gathered for only the third time as the Michigan Annual Conference. In his remarks, Bishop Bard reminded us that we have met twice virtually, and only once in person. I don’t want to say that we are adapting to online gatherings. However, this year’s Conference was closer to what has been our regular practice. We worshiped together 5 times over three days. We participated in legislative sessions and had the opportunity to go to a virtual exhibit hall. Clergy session introduced us to the 2021 candidates for recognition, commissioning, and ordination. We also named the candidates from last year who were unable to participate in their own celebratory service.
The Scripture which was the focus of our time of gathering was Psalm 137:4: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (King James Version). Dr. Cynthia Wilson, Rev. Anna Moon, Bishop David Bard, Pastor Jonathan Mays, and Deacon Paul Perez invited those watching Annual Conference to consider how we sing our songs in these strange days.
Over the course of Annual Conference and until today, I have been considering the songs which I sing regularly and how often I sing them. There are spirituals, hymns, ballads, and even rap songs that continue to run through my mind daily. Some I sing out loud as I prepare to pray each day. Others are part of my reflection and work time. I often play them on my computer as I complete the tasks which are before me.
I believe that music is an integral part of our lives. There are songs reserved for milestone days. Birthday songs, wedding marches, and even commencement tunes all signify these important events. Within our hymnals, songs for Advent, Lent, Christmas, and Easter are grouped together. There are special hymns that offer comfort for us as we celebrate the lives of family and friends whose journey on earth is completed. There are other hymns that speak to the Lord’s call upon our lives.
And this year, like last year, as we gathered for Annual Conference, we shared some of these familiar songs in new and strange ways. Whether we gathered in our homes, offices, or churches, it was still a strange time not to sit and stand together, breaking out in 4-part harmony, to lift our praises to our God.
We are eager to pick up the pieces we laid aside when the pandemic started. We want to dust off the seats in our sanctuaries, open the doors of our churches and invite people inside once again. We still want to sing the Lord’s songs as we begin to understand that we are entering a strange time, a new time for what it means to be Christians.
Our songs are needed now more than ever. As we begin to enter a post-pandemic existence, we recognize that people are still in need of food, shelter, and clothing. We understand that more people are in need of pastoral care, as both physical and mental illness is affecting persons who want to get back to work, school and life before wearing masks, distancing, and temperature checks.
The songs we sing will help bring us to a new understanding of how God’s call on our lives changes each and every day, while at the same time affirming that our Lord is with us now as always. May we lift our voices as often as we can to celebrate how God still moves in us and through us, even as we journey through these strange times. And Amen.