Crystal has introduced the people of our small congregation to some beautiful songs by the Wailin’ Jennys. Tomorrow the women’s quartet she formed with Karen, Amy, and Lenda Faye will share one of those songs, inviting the whole group to join in on the last verse. It will be a powerful moment because we believe in what we will sing, we are being what we will sing, and the Spirit who moves in us all will be speaking through what we will sing.
From the song, “One Voice,” we will sing this:
“This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us
This is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This is the sound of one voice.”
These words are so simple. Maybe for some they will mean little. But we will do what we do in worship, we will take time to let the meaning sink in by reflecting on what is rising up in us, and then people will speak up with how the meanings have touched their souls. We will be co-creating worship in our way, where every voice has equal validity, where each voice becomes the one voice of Spirit calling to us, and where each voice offers another enriching layer of truth.
One of the great gifts of a contemplative life, a life of seeking the presence of God in each moment, and of sharing that life in community, is that Spirit is a unifier. In unity of Spirit there are no hierarchies. Each voice matters because each voice is a vessel through whom Spirit can speak directly to our need. The false dichotomy of clergy/lay members of such a community is dissolved. The usual pattern of churches where everyone gathers to passively listen to what a preacher, often a male, has to say is overthrown. We become “one people.” The “one Voice” can speak through every voice, and as they are woven together, the myriad voices speaking their truth becomes one message, “one voice.”
I serve as the pastor of these people, and yes I still craft some words, stories, poetry, or song most weeks to share with them. But because we are co-creating worship together, many of us offer our gifts and every offering is truly of equal value. Each voice, each person’s sense of what speaks to them, can become that vessel for Spirit-speak. So what the pastor shares is literally only one of the voices.
An earlier line from the song says this:
“Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery….”
When we are co-creating worship, just as when our contemplative communities gather all over town each week, our sharing is exactly this. Because we are practicing the presence of God our sharing is in harmony. And because we are not God, practicing the presence humbles us so that even in our sharing we are all “surrendering to the mystery.” Revealing ourselves is not about “Hey, listen to me because I am right and you are wrong.” Sacred sharing is both revealing the tiny glimmer of understanding we find and boldly proclaiming how far we are from grasping the Mystery.
On the rare occasion when someone speaks up with a hint of arrogance, of rightness, which is laughable for contemplatives, no one responds. We let the empty words fall to the ground. As another line from the song says, “Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust.” There is no need to shift into the world’s typical format: debate. Polarizing views have no place among us, for we have learned again and again that Great Truth has many facets, and each of us can only represent one part of the whole.
We are learning, through years of practice, that we are “one people,” and when speaking in Spirit-unity we are “one voice.” If we slip at some point into the world’s way of speaking against each other, we will repent, turn, return to being “one people, one voice.” This is our way as contemplatives in the world.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book.