As a church musician, I believe that the confidence ensembles have makes a profound difference in their ability to lead worship. Part of that means knowing what choir needs. Sometimes that’s the appropriate technical information with ringing or singing; for example, a reminder about breathing for a vocal choir or flow in how a bell choir is ringing. Other times, it’s the best metaphor or story to emotionally connect the ensemble to the music. Or perhaps it’s helping shift the mindset in the room. I find that the right mindset can transform a rehearsal, a piece of music, a phrase. That starts with me first. A verse I keep thinking about is:
“Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
As an experiment, try to be 100% still for 8 – 10 seconds. You may notice that you hold your breath and/or hold some physical tension. Even when we’re sitting, our blood is flowing, our lungs moving, and we breathe. I also believe that the Spirit of God is constantly moving. So, it’s curious that God would use such a curious word as “still”.
Perhaps stillness is more closely related to presence. That has also been elusive at times, especially during the pandemic. I remember being on lock down, yet not feeling still since I was grieving for cancelled music events, conferences, deaths, and societal ills.
Perhaps stillness is more like acknowledging our current situation and trusting in God. From an emotional standpoint, if we acknowledge our emotions, they tend to have less power over us. In case you’re a podcast listener, two podcasts I highly recommend are Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us by Brene Brown. Both have given me comfort and tools to help carry me through difficult times.
Perhaps stillness has a connotation of being quiet. That seems to make sense. Communion is generally quiet. That often feels a still moment in worship. If I quiet myself and my emotions, I generally listen better. Listening also feels like stillness is involved. Generally if I get out of my own way, I tend to hear God and others more. That’s a kind of stillness that also makes sense to me.
In addition to thinking about stillness for my ensembles, I’m revisiting the concept for myself. Generally, the more my mind is still and quiet, but engaged, the better I listen and the more informed and wiser are my decisions. Keeping that mindset is easier said than done. Or in the course of the week, it’s easy to get swept along with stressful situations and lose that stillness. There are several activities that help me get back to stillness, such as:
- Determining my priorities for the week
- Journaling, even for a few minutes
- Breathing deeply in and out for a few cycles
- Listening to music that centers me
One of the pieces that helps center me is Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Since it’s the 150th anniversary of his birth on October 12, I thought I would share a piece of his that has inspired me countless times.
May you be still, be at peace, listen deeply, and hear God’s voice, even in these chaotic times. What are some techniques you use to become still? You are welcome to comment below.