As regular readers may recall, St. John’s Anglican Church in Fort Worth actually pays me to sing. I am one of several staff singers, professionals, that allow the Church choir to do a much higher level of music, and more of it. I have, for decades, been depressed by the trends of church music. In far too many churches, one can no longer hear the foundational music of Christianity, music written by genuinely devout men like Johann Sebastian Bach. It has been replaced by contemporary cantatas, accompanied by soulless CDs. Far too seldom can one hear a cappella music, which actually means “in church style,” for in centuries past, instruments weren’t allowed in worship, and to sing without accompaniment was to sing in church style.
And what kind of music do we sing? Go here to hear a lovely version of the Franz Biebl Ave Maria as you view the photographs of the Church I am fortunate to serve. The work always moves me to tears–when I’m not singing it.
St. John’s is built in the style of English country churches. The architect traveled to England to study those churches, and bring back a faithful design. The sanctuary was completed in 1952. In a sense, a Church is not only the building, but the people that animate it, yet the building can inspire, elevate, and humble.
It can reassure the faithful of the steadfastness of God, and of the promise of redemption.
Its soaring heights remind us of our frailties and our mortality. We are, in the vastness of the universe, seen and unseen, small, yet God knows the fall of a sparrow, and he knew us before we were born.
It reminds us of the goodness and mercy we are given in such great measure, and which we too may give.
It reminds us that we are a part of an ancient tradition, as alive and vital today as it ever was. The light-colored stone came from the Island of Patmos, where St. John is believed to have written Revelations.
It reassures us that faith is intimate, small, and comfortable, that it dwells ever within us if we desire; if we knock.
A beautiful building draws us back, it makes us feel, each time we enter, we are home.
It shows us, in brick and wood and steel what faith can move man to accomplish.
But always, it reminds us Who we serve and why we gather together to worship.
This Christmas Eve of 2016 I will be the sole tenor–the other two singers are out of town this year–and will sing three services. There is nowhere I would rather be.
May you too, gentle readers, be home this holy night.