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Comfort and Joy by Angie Fuller

I have inherited a few tattered songbooks with “K. Gonlag” written on the covers. These small books, published 80 years ago and with pages now brittle and brown, belonged to my great-grandfather, Klaas Gonlag. During his teen and early adult years he traveled around his native Netherlands with a men’s singing group. In 1923, after starting a family and serving in WWI, he brought his wife and two children to a small town in Iowanever to set foot in the Netherlands again. Everything was new – the language, the culture, his job. Outside his immediate family, how did he find comfort? He sang. He found other Dutch immigrants in the area and met regularly with them to sing. The books I’ve inherited are all in Englisha sign that he purchased them here in the U.S. with every intention to learn a new language. But whether in Dutch or English, singing with a group of people with shared experiences offered him comfort and joy.

Recently my kids and I watched a documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan. After enduring unspeakable atrocities that left them orphans, they spent years as refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya. The documentary followed two young men who were eventually relocated to cities in the United States. Their new lives were no less challenging as they faced barriers of language, education, racism, and employment. A year after their relocation, they were invited to gather in Washington D.C. with other “Lost Boys” from around the U.S. What did these menmost of them strangers to each otherdo when they assembled and began to share their stories? They sang. They sang, danced, and made vocalizations of their native Dinka tribe. Their dark, beautiful faces, which had long been stoically masking anxiety and confusion, broke into huge white grins that conveyed the comfort and joy they found in making music together.

Our 2BC Sanctuary Choir, the church’s largest and perhaps most regularly active community group, recently offered a collection of short “autobiographies” to our new Associate Pastor of Worship and Music, Chip Handrich, and his wife, Marcie. We hoped that our photographs and short personal profiles might help them get to know us a little easier. I had the pleasure of compiling these profiles, which included thoughts about why we sing in the choir. Our sentiments were remarkably unanimous. In choir members’ words:

“I have felt supported and loved through the highs and lows of life and have experienced beautiful and special worship through music. I just don't think I would be able to find all of that anywhere else in the world. I am truly grateful for this place.”

“I sing in the choir because it is like therapy for me. When things are not going well or I’ve had a bad day, coming to choir and singing with friends can really lift my spirits and make everything better. I also sing because…it is a wonderful group of people who are very, very supportive of one another.”

While our choir’s musical offerings to God are only visible during corporate worship, we singers worship on a personal level during rehearsals and throughout the week as songs linger in our heads. But our mission is not merely about using music to strengthen relationships with God. It’s also about building relationships with each other. We laugh, cry, encourage, learn, and pray together as we sing our way through our shared lives of discipleship. Whether we have limited or extensive musical background, we find comfort and joy in making music together.

It seems universal, doesn’t it? Regardless of race, location, or era, music unifies and strengthens us. The ability to make music together has always been one of God’s precious gifts to humankind.

The Sanctuary Choir at 2BC is open to ALL who enjoy singing, a good laugh, and a place in a loving, musical family. What’s keeping you from joining us?


Picture of "Peter Dancing" is from the PBS page

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