We’re still on the road, but I want to share a few reflections with you as we round the final turn of the 2016 Cornerstone Youth Choir Tour to Branson, Missouri. This week I watched inhibitions disappear (in a good way!) in this special group of young people.
As we sang in a series of retirement and nursing home settings, I was amazed to watch them go out and sit with the residents, talk with them, and sing with them as if this was something they did every day — even those for whom this was their first choir tour. I didn’t tell them to do that — they just did it all on their own with no urging or encouragement beyond a few simple instructions at the start of the tour.
I work with teenagers all the time and would have expected them to be more timid about this. Most groups of teens would go off and sit by themselves at the lunch hosted by Marionville Methodist Manor, for example, but these kids scattered themselves among the residents and had sincere, engaged conversations with them over the delicious brisket lunch prepared and served by the staff of this wonderful place.
On this tour we have all been reminded of how emotionally and spiritually charged some hymns are. Every time we sing hymns like “In the Garden” or “Amazing Grace” in the communities we visit, it is amazingly clear that the familiar words and harmonies of these hymns touch deep memories and places in the hearts of our audiences. For those we have sung for, these songs rewind decades in their memories to singing in little churches all across the country, or in military service across the sea. For some of our youth they spark memories of previous tours and for many, these are the first times they have sung some of them.
I have always loved the way music gets wrapped up around the people and events it touches. Our “Mama J” (FUMCFW Worship & Music Assistant Elaine Johnson) pointed out to us all at last night’s devotional that now these hymns will bring us all back to this tour and the lives we touched in the places we sang together. The words of these hymns are transformed by the harmonies we sing into a strong glue that binds all of our histories together — young and old. The beauty of that connection is one I’ve experienced many times. However, it truly is my pleasure to be a part of introducing these kids to this experience and to be “glued” into their new memories.
I know there are now songs that I won’t be able to hear without a smile coming to my face as I remember this very special group of people, and I am made much the richer by this experience with them.