June 9, 2020
I’m in the middle of a week of classes. I find continued learning part of my care and nurture and exploration for my calling as Celebrant/Chaplain/Spiritual Care Counselor. This afternoon’s class was entitled, “Liberating Your Voice (Building Confidence)” In the course description, the following questions were posed:
-- Do you hold limiting beliefs about yourself related to singing, public speaking, and vocal expression?
-- How might you be liberated to experience a more full and meaningful relationship to your voice and the power it possesses for you in your ministry/service/leadership?
There were nine of us in this class. The instructor admitted to us that teaching online, via Zoom, is very new. She began the class having each of us share about our voice. About our experience using it and opportunities we seek. The student sharing seemed to take a lot of time. I realized later why. There was a need for us to name our experience and fears and hopes and dreams. And to build a community of trust for what was to come next.
Then the instructor skillfully led us through trying vocalizations and improvisations against her piano accompaniment. Each student had their sound on mute, so we could make our sounds and vocalizations in our space. She invited us to use words or sounds of singing. Somehow I ended up being the first one called upon to unmute myself and share. I am pretty comfortable sharing and speaking; however, unmuting to sing an improvisational vocalization on Zoom… which is not the friendliest sound system… caught me. I felt the discomfort and… I did it anyway. The words I chose to match what I heard on the piano were :
Unmuted, I sang the strains; and then slowly the instructor invited others, one by one, to join in with signing or words to accompany. It was a jumbled mess… as one said. Surprisingly, as we went on, the communal effort and spirit kicked in. By the last couple rounds, I felt myself tingling. That is always my way of feeling the spirit moving within that which I am sharing.
There is much to be said for how and where we share our voice. I have found that feeling discomfort is part of sharing. I have always felt if I feel discomfort and listen for spirit, the combination allows my authentic voice to come forth.
After my turn; each of my colleagues had their turn. Each voice was filled with vulnerability and authenticity. Some sang familiar songs, some sang new songs, some voiced spoken word, some gave vocalization. I believe the deep sharing by each person before being asked to give voice, allowed a safe place to try something different. Or something familiar in a different way.
One of my colleagues shared memories of the old hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead”. I have sung that tune many a time to myself and to people going through difficult times, or as they transition from this life to death, and the mystery beyond. It is an African-American Spiritual, and rooted in the Christian faith. My foundation is rooted in Christianity; even as my faith journey has expanded.
And at times when I am weary, I return to my roots for soothing. I am feeling a sense of dying in our society and the world right now. I needed some balm and healing of my white priviledged, sin-sick soul.
These two verses anchor the whole song:
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.
The class made me think, that perhaps our class today, was like a community bedside effort for the dying; giving hope to that which will be born. What a much needed release and reviving this day.
I pray for all the voices at this time; that may feel discomfort. That we all lean into the communities and spaces we are in, and lift our vulnerable, authentic, spirit filled voices. If even one person hears; our voice has provided liberation. For ourselves; and for another.
I attach one of Mahalia Jackson’s recordings of “There is a Balm in Gilead”.
Her voice, and this offering is to be savored. It is from the Christian belief system; however, I believe there is something to be captured regardless of one’s beliefs. If you choose to listen; I suggest settling in, closing your eyes; so you may truly hear her voice.
May it be so…