They weren’t pews but not chairs either. Some kind of wooden folding seats with two hooked together. Were it not for a photo of my 5-year old self sitting next to little brother I’d not remember what we sat in that makeshift chapel in the early 60′s in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
The building had seen other uses and been condemned is how the story was told. It became the first Salvation Army outpost in that small town south of Little Rock. A chapel that wasn’t a chapel but I remember Sunday nights in that small building. Sunday nights were different because the songs were faster and there was a lot of clapping. It was the old hymns and the people loved singing them. It seemed every week we sang “I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop…”
The platform was cleared for the grand piano to take center stage. This chapel, large, light-filled, padded pews. A departure this week, a joining with the congregation down the street, graciously hosting our guest and allowing more room than our little place.
This week, fingers commanding every key, a voice that is more like a heart singing and we’ve come together expecting more. This is why we gather. This is why the Word tells us not to neglect the coming together as a community.
A voice behind me sings out, not a note in key, but their heart was full of joy and I know his voice was like an angel as it reached its intended destination. I looked at faces and many looked absent in some way and I have no idea how this was possible except to know how many times I am absent in this moment. Focused on the mechanics and time more than being open to a moving from God.
Something about that singing when I was a little girl stayed with me. In a condemned funeral home, songs of praise and promise rang out from feeble voices and proclaimed life. It wasn’t the skill but the hearts because I knew they were singing with whole hearts.
A row of little ones were behind me. I am the older one now. They don’t know the songs, aren’t old enough to read the words projected on the screen but paged through the books as if they could. Just listen, dear children. Just listen to the hearts around you. Hear the ones singing with their hearts because this is the music of love.