There are many joys to being in seminary, and most people would agree that chapel is one of them. For me the greatest joy is, definitely and particularly: singing in chapel and not being too loud.
I was warmly welcomed back on the first day of the semester, in Seminary Singers rehearsal, with a rocking gospel solo to sing. And a tambourine to play. All in a week's fun? Perhaps, but it was particularly dear to me.
Don't get me wrong - I loved the classical vocal training I received in Lostine. I loved learning new tricks and methods of control. But for the most part last year, excepting the several Stained Glass Bluegrass gigs, I was hushed to match the volume of my choirmates, so as to not stand out. This is one way of achieving a nice balanced choir sound. But the other method is to challenge everyone else to sing as loud as I do, and that's what the St Andrew Presbyterian choir director does. And Seminary wants me to be loud, to claim my voice. Tonight in Preaching class, J. Alfred Smith Sr led us in our affirmations, with fists raised high for emphasis:
I am a preacher!
I AM a preacher!
I did not come to seminary to become a preacher!
God made me a preacher!
I came to seminary to become a better preacher!
And in chapel last week, 3 or 4 of us wailed out on the high descant of Holy Holy Holy... I felt it work every muscle in me, down to my very toes. You can do this when everyone in the large crowd around you is giving their all, down to their toes, alongside you.
Last week (I wrote this blog on paper when this was "today," but promptly lost it. Last Wednesday), ashen-faced and reminded of my mortality (to the earth you return) I did not crawl or crumble (as certain Catholics are so fond of doing in dance class) but I stood up straight and belted out the closing hymn. "Jesus, keep me near the cross!" with all I had, and in the crowd of seminary strength, energetic flow, pastoral power, it was not too loud.