Together

During Vince’s sermon on the last Sunday that our church building was open before COVID-19 precautions, he mentioned a conference of LGBTQ+ Christians called Revoice. As their video clip played in our sanctuary, I immediately found a contact form on their site and started writing an email.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a second, specifically mine. If you hear your pastor describe an upcoming series called Higher Love on gay Christians and the church, how exactly would you go about prepping a batch of songs to lead on those Sunday mornings?

Exactly. I (and Jen) didn’t quite know how to begin either. (More on that process and that batch of songs in a future post).

But as we worked to develop those sets, one thing I knew was missing was someone that I could ask an important question: What songs are meaningful and welcoming to gay Christians? I didn’t know where to turn until Vince mentioned Revoice.

The next day, they sent me a couple of Spotify playlists, one of which was songs they’ve sung at their conference. I didn’t hit play until later that week, day three of working from home, mid-dinner preparation.

The first song stopped me in my tracks, chef knife in one hand, bundle of cilantro in the other.

“Oh how good it is when the family of God dwells together.”

The song kept playing, but I stopped hearing after that word. I immediately wondered how long it would be before all of us at RCC would be able to meet together in the building again. This new reality of social distancing and working from home and prepping to stream a service online is unfamiliar and strange and sometimes scary. It’s jarring. But even so, I’m not in the demographic likely to be at risk for complications even if I were to catch the virus. I’d likely be fine. Maybe that’s true for you too.

But put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a second. The elderly who aren’t so sure they’d be ok if they caught it. Those with compromised immune systems. Or those who don’t have the capability of working from home easily or have even lost their jobs due to businesses shutting down.

I can’t really fathom what those people are feeling or going through.

With all of that considered, I’m one of the fortunate ones. But I can still mourn with those who mourn.

I tuned back into the song, still playing, but now listening in the context of the group that had sent it to me.

“With one voice we’ll sing to the Lord,” begins the chorus. I read the lyrics as I thought about how they would land and resonate with a gay Christian.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a second. The kid who has a same-sex crush on someone in their youth group, later told that he wouldn’t be welcome anymore. The young adult who’s attended a Christian school most of their life, but who feels like there’s no place for someone who’s gay in this subculture, instead looking for acceptance and identity elsewhere.

I’m not in the demographic of people who would feel this confusion and hurt and pain. I can’t really fathom what those individuals with same-sex attraction are going through when they are rejected over and over again, the loneliness they might feel as they struggle with who they are. But I can still mourn with those who mourn.

So that first phrase of the refrain? With “one voice?” How powerful that must be to turn that “one” from a solitary singular into a collective chorus that reunites and refocuses on a “Redeemer that dwells in the presence of his people.”

This song started churning together our own reality here in this pandemic while trying to imagine the reality of gay Christians in the church. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not equating the two. Nor do I mean to unintentionally minimize the experience of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Instead, I want to recognize how this single song captured many different narratives and pointed them all in the same direction “on this journey we share.” That’s what a good lyric does: it allows the listener IN to its world through very different sets of ears. A good worship lyric will do the same, and point those different ones to One.

The whole first line of the song?  “Oh how good it is when the family of God dwells together in spirit in faith and unity. Hey, no mention of physical proximity. This tune is social distancing approved! We can still find ways to “offer the blessing of belonging” even when we aren’t together in our building.

May our own spirit and faith and unity be found together, even in the midst of our physical separation. And even in the midst of our own individual experience and reality, may we be called to the Reality of what it looks like to “live as one.”

-Ben Smither, RCC Worship Leader 
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