This is My St. John’s! by Holly Mentzer

Although I am still an active member in the church in Manhattan where I was baptized as an adult and later married, most of my Sundays are spent here in my adopted spiritual home in the role of section leader for the alto section in the Adult Choir. Commitment to the choir meant missing holidays with my own family, but this is in many ways another family to me. We share each other’s joys and sorrows, mourn the loss of parents, celebrate birthdays, and the birth of babies. Year after year we experience the church year through music, anticipating holidays while we rehearse our anthems. The music that we sing is frequently connected to the readings of the day, and we may not even realize the connection and experience that resonance until we are singing together before communion is celebrated.

And yet, I think the most profound experience is still singing the hymns up in the safety of the choir stalls, anonymous in a sea of sound. When the organ changes in intensity or color, I feel a wash of emotions that remind me of why I am here, and why we are all here under this roof, under the watchful eyes of the biblical figures in the beautiful stained glass windows. It is altogether mystical sometimes, and I recall the moment when, as an adult, I realized that I did in fact believe in God. We continue to relive our faith together in the music, the hymns, or listening to the powerful beauty of the organ. Singing in a parish choir is really about experiencing your connection to God through music. I sometimes think of past members whose names are still penciled on the front of the copies of the anthems they sang from for many years, and how wonderful it is that this music is something that still brings significant richness to lives of our long-time dedicated volunteer members who are the core of the choir. I thank God for giving me the gift of music to help me understand the Word, for being able to support our section, and to be able to bring the spiritual experience of the music to those who may be listening.  ̶  Holly Mentzer