It had been a while since I'd done a solo at church, and I was beyond ready. So I expressed to the new choir director my willingness and desire to sing at the early and late services. He suggested I do it when he was on vacation in July, so we would have special music without the choir having to sing an anthem. Although I was a bit disappointed he wouldn't hear me sing, I knew it was a good plan.
The Sunday of his vacation turned out to be July 3, so in the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, I decided I would sing something patriotic rather than what I had planned. "America the Beautiful" was my choice.
At choir practice that Wednesday, I was surprised when we started a new anthem selected because we would have Communion on Sunday. It wasn't until choir practice was over that I knew for sure that the choir director had had a change of plans and would be there to lead us in this very worshipful anthem. I was glad.
But I began to have second thoughts about singing "America the Beautiful" as a solo. I'd chosen an arrangement with a key change and that ended with a soul-stirring flourish, but I was really doubting my ability to carry it out. It was a higher key than I realized, and I also wondered whether some of those words sounded very melodic when they emerged from my mouth. I prayed as I practiced, seeking guidance and even assurance regarding how to handle this. I worried it would sound thin or screechy. Some of the techniques our director has shared in his short time with the choir came to my mind, and they were helpful as I practiced and tried to figure out how best to approach some notes, words and phrases. I practiced with increasing faith, even as confidence continued to elude me.
As far as the key, God was able to remind me that I am a soprano and have the ability to sing those notes, so I could just pretend I was singing with the whole choir.
More lessons I took to heart from the new director: Work on technique. Practice and practice. Then let go and worship. It seemed like that happened the first service. But the second service, it seemed different, maybe less connected spiritually. And my mind or spirit couldn't seem to recall the idea of pretending the choir was singing along. But then a wonderful thing happened. At the start of the final verse, "Oh beautiful for patriot's dream ...," after the pianist played a brief fanfare, members of the congregation and choir started to stand and then join in singing! The power of the song. The power of the spirit. The power of patriotism. The power of freedom. The power of God!
How humbled and grateful I feel to be allowed to have a part in such a moment of worship and praise. Again and again, God sheds His grace on me and all who seek Him. I pray to never stop seeking and praising Him.