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We Are The Fabric

First, I’m not preaching, or even really discussing religion, but I have to tell you this to tell you that.

I grew up in an environment that frowned on the use of instrumental music in the worship service. Church history is rife with arguments about whether we should, whether it’s right or wrong, annoying or heavenly. No dog in that fight sleeps under my porch.

But I like the singing and, in particular, singing in four-part harmony. It encourages me to hear the voices around me, comforting me, encouraging me, strengthening me. One of the most beautiful sounds I ever heard came from a lady down the pew who was eighty if anything. Her voice stretched tight with wear and age. Exuberance trumped pitch. Joy triumphed over all. She sang love to her savior with innocent clarity. But that’s not what I’m writing about, either.

After more than a quarter century at the same congregation, my wife and I needed something different, for a variety of reasons. We’ve visited several places and recently have frequented places featuring young bands of talented performers, in a rock-n-roll church, if you will. Most call it “contemporary Christian” music. My old Granddaddy yet spins in his resting place. I’ve been missing something about the old ways and just recently discovered what it was.

The loud, heartfelt music is inspiring and stirs the emotion. But I can barely hear even myself, much less the sweet woman by my side. Especially in the lower ranges, my voice rarely rises to the point I can even tell it’s in tune. That night it hit me. I wasn’t a part. No one else could hear me. Not one other person in the room could tell whether I belted out the melody, blended in harmony, or only mouthed the words. What part did I have to play? All receiving and no giving.

In four-part harmony, each part sustains the other. Melody leads and bass supports it. Tenor and soprano add richness and depth. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. Each voice is a living participant in building the fabric of praise, expression of joy and sadness and hope. And it’s a representation of life around us.

None of us is the same as the person next to us, but each plays a part upon which others depend. Just last week fortune smiled on me, connecting my book with a receptive publisher. The process has already been an education in interconnectedness. The author imagines the story and makes the product. The publisher looks at the big picture, guides, takes risks, accepts the marketable, declines the not-yet-ready or not-for-us. The editor takes an objective look and pretties the baby. The artist creates a cover that entices. Fellow travelers inspire. The accountant pays bills and royalties. You get the idea. The tapestry must encompass all the parts or it unravels.

What part of the fabric do we play? To which diverse pieces of material do we belong? How many layers make up the whole? No call to action here, only a thought.

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Categories: writing Tags: , , ,
  1. April 20, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Well said. I have some of the same thoughts myself. Congrats on the publishing of your book. I’m in the process of working with a publisher for my third book, second with him, and I know exactly where you’re coming from. I share your excitement about the process of the whole thing. Glad to have someone else sharing their similar experiences. Best of luck with your book.

  2. April 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Joe, having spent most of my adult life in a similar religious environment, enjoyed your insights and the application at the end. Especially related to your description of the older lady at the end of the pew–must be one in every congregation. Their aged love of the Lord keeps their memories precious long after their voices have faded.

    I also visited your regular web site and read your bio at http://www.jdtrent.com/bio.html. Thanks for sharing that you are real and touchable. And congratulations on your book.

  3. April 20, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Joe, this is what makes us each unique, our own personal quirks and qualities that allow us to grow.

    As for publishing I loved the ‘pretties the baby’. 🙂

  4. April 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Joe, I think you have discovered the reason for the fight. No one minds music in church but worship begs participation, not an audience. Now to communicate that to church world, praying you get a platform.

    Congrats on your acceptance to MuseItUp! Pretties the baby is great, LOL! So much work which is never minded as the little cherub smiles and delights.

    Karen 🙂

  5. Nancy
    April 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Hey Joe,
    Music in some form or another is older than we can imagine. Some even believe that the world was “sung” in being. Singing together connects us not only to each other but also to the greater All That Is, which each person and religion defines in its own way. Keep seeking, my friend, you are on the right path.

    Now, I will go and “pretty up” your baby some more. It is coming along quite nicely, I hope you will be pleased.

    • jdtrent
      April 20, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks Nancy. I’m looking forward to see how you’ve dressed her!

  6. April 20, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    I used to sing barbershop years ago, and I love the sound of the harmony. I have also been a part of a contemporary Christian church where you couldn’t hear yourself sing. So, I see both parts of the thing, and don’t know that one is necessarily better than the other, just different.

    • jdtrent
      April 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks for this and all comments. To be clear, I don’t dislike this form of singing. It’s great. But I’ve come to appreciate something I took for granted, and the process helped me notice some other things as well.

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