This morning, the first Sunday of Lent, we will be trying something new at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany: A plainsong psalm.
Since I’m the one singing the plainsong, I am now thinking yikes, what did I get myself into?
Sure, I chant psalms sometimes for myself. I’ve even recorded a couple. I’m fascinated at how these ancient words, translated into a language that didn’t even exist when they were written, are set to the simplest music. Plainsong is very…well, plain. And while I love occasional vocal pyrotechnics as much as the next soprano, there are some things that have no place for them. (Such as psalms, and the Star Spangled Banner.)
It helps to realize that this isn’t a performance, it’s a service. While I’ve written before about the give-and-take between audience and performer, this is different. Anyone involved in the liturgy is involved in an act of service, and that naturally includes the congregation. Now that I think about it, I’ve attended services in the (distant) past that left me feeling excluded, and it’s probably because they were more of a performance than a service.
The dictionary (Merriam Webster, in this case) gives several definitions of the word service. One is the work performed by one who serves; help, use, benefit. Another is a meeting for worship.
How can I serve? Today, just show up and chant so that the words and tone are clear, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.