For most of my growing up years, I sang in my congregation’s church choir. It was a formative time of learning about music and becoming comfortable having a leadership role in worship. After a few years in the youth choir, I was comfortable, had lots of friends, and knew what I was doing there.
However, one night before choir practice in seventh grade, the director came up to me and said, “Paul, we need to talk. I think your voice has changed on us.” Wearing high-water pants that I had quickly outgrown and desperately needing to borrow my dad’s razor, I was one of the only boys still in the choir, and had been squeakily trying to sing in a high falsetto (like Frankie Valli or Tiny Tim) for the past few months in order to have my voice blend in with the other treble-voiced singers. It was time for me to switch into the high school choir, even though I was not yet in high school.
In the high school choir, I felt weird being the only middle schooler, but I quickly made new friends and started to feel welcome. I no longer had to struggle to make my voice fit. I did have to learn how to read a different set of musical notation in order to follow the musical score and sing the lower parts written in bass clef. It took some time of embarrassing awkwardness, but I eventually become much more comfortable with my changed voice.
At Amazing Grace, our voice is changing. We are in the midst of development and transformation. We are less rural and more suburban. There are new roofs and handicap ramps. We’ve had intentional conversations about hospitality, sexuality, and human genetics. We just finished a Vacation Bible School with a civil rights theme, and are starting a bilingual worship service. With some shifts in leadership and worship styles, we’ve been amazingly resilient. We’ve had more visitors in recent weeks, and I feel a sort of momentum is growing. We’re getting to meet new people and learn to work with each other. Like me shifting into a new choir, we are shifting into new surroundings and a new time in our development.
Getting used to a new voice takes time. Change can be awkward and embarrassing. Once in a while, there are squeaks and breaks. The old voice wasn’t a bad voice, it was just different. From sixth to eight grade, I went from a skinny, high-voiced sixth-grader to a deeper-voiced young man. A lot can happen in two years.
A lot has happened the two years since I first came to Texas for “meet the pastoral candidate” weekend. As a pastor, I’ve learned so much about being in Christian community. As a congregation, we’re still getting used to different voices. I don’t know exactly what our voice will sound like in future years, but that’s part of the excitement as we grow and change together.
(Also appears as my July newsletter column).