Sharing Our Faith: Beth Neville Evans
Today I would like to thank two people for helping me along my journey of faith.
First, John. Many years ago John said to me that he wanted to go to church but he didn’t want to go alone. He wanted us to attend church as a family. I had not even thought about going to church before that. I accompanied him, not always with the best grace and certainly without much expectation for deepening faith. Over the years, though, all of this attending – sitting in church, sometimes listening, often not; praying the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes paying attention to the words, often not; singing the hymns, sometimes paying attention, more often just trying to figure out the different harmonies – has deepened my faith.
Something has happened to my faith and it continues to happen because I’m simply showing up at church. The words of the liturgy are deep and true although my belief is not. Or at least it isn’t yet. But the liturgy is taking me deeper. And I’m finding that more and more, I do believe.
So thank you, John, for having the wisdom to know that this might happen when we were only 23 years old and for knowing that I might be freed from limited faith by coming and sitting next to you all these years.
And thank you Linda Blondel, for suggesting that I audition for the Virginia Consort. I’m not sure I would have ever done that without your suggestion. I didn’t think I could sing well enough. I’d started to sing with the Cove choir but the Virginia Consort required another much higher skill set that I was not sure I had. And neither was Judy Gary, the director, who let me try it out to see how I would do. That first Monday evening at rehearsal, we read through the Bach Cantata, Nach Dir Herr Verlanget Mich (I long for you, Lord). The opening melody line starts with the basses, then the tenors, then the altos and finally the sopranos. They all have an octave leap followed by descending chromatic steps. Whoo! There I was in a room full of people singing. There were singing voices resonating all around me, a real surround sound that coursed through our very bodies. All of our bodies rang with the music.
“This is what heaven is,” I thought, I was so sure that God was in that room with us and that we were God’s angels. (Or at least the angels in heaven sing Bach!). I have never forgotten it.
Since that experience, music has become the vehicle to take me closer to God. It can provide me a direct line to the holy. As Alice Parker says, “One of the glories of music is that it says what words cannot say.”
Music invites me into the sacred with its holy marriage of melody and words. I find the sacred when the entire church is singing a familiar and well beloved hymn and I find it when the choir sings and I even find it when I’m singing alone. It has given new meaning to this quote from Revelation:
I hear every creature in heaven, on earth
In the world below and in the sea-
All living beings in the universe
And they were singing:
‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
Be praise and honor, glory and might
for ever and ever.
I’ll close with the words from this anonymous 16th century Lutheran chorale:
Shall I praise my God not singing? Shall I dumb and silent be?
When I hear all nature ringing thanks and praise eternally?
Song is only love resounding from a faithful heart and voice,
Making all the earth rejoice and the echoing space resounding.
All creation clear and strong praises Love in endless song.