A Play and a Hymn

Two and a half years ago, on the last (in this case, the 29th) day of February, 2020, my wife and I went to the local repertory theater (The Fitzgerald Theater of Rockville MD) to see a wonderful production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. After the performance, cast and audience joined together for a “birthday party” for the character of Frederic. The fact that Frederic was born on a leap day is of course a critical part of the light opera. Everyone was feeling jolly after the performance, and it was a very pleasant evening for all community members in attendance.

We knew there was something coming on the horizon, but we were not prepared for it. The next day I read the liturgy at church and used hand sanitizer for the first time. The following week, having read more about what was already happening in China and Europe, we stayed home from church. We felt bad about it, but that turned out to be the last in-person service at our church that anyone attended for over a year. As our state reported three cases of what was then still called the novel coronavirus, our governor declared a state of emergency, our church and the theater closed, and soon everything began shutting down. Case numbers in our area began doubling every three days. I posted a video to my channel about why social distancing works, and it got over 4000 views. We went to two supermarkets late in the evening and bought lots of canned goods. We were worried, isolated, sometimes in despair. And we had it easy—retired, no loss of income—but still, it was a scary time.

On the 22nd of March, our pastor began holding online services. This raised out spirits. (Our college student, sent home for virtual classes the week before, showed us how Zoom worked.) And then a few days later, I found a true blessing online. The technology to record and broadcast musical ensembles came together with amazing speed, and I was overwhelmed to find this video of one of my favorite hymns, sung by a group of professional studio musicians from Nashville.


Of course, by now, such things are commonplace. Our own church choir (with Aniko singing soprano) has made a number of such beautiful recordings to be used in our virtual services. But every time I watch and listen to this piece, I am struck by the magnificence of human creativity and ingenuity and I feel overcome with gratitude. The hymn itself was composed at a moment of extreme grief and pain. And yet this beautiful light in the midst of our dark hour shines in my soul and inspires me to praise our Lord

Watching these ordinary-looking people, each singing alone in their homes, no staging, no costumes, just them and the music, and then seeing it put together in a composite of visual and musical beauty is a testament to the incomprehensible majesty of humanity. This act of worship is, to me, the final and total proof of the majesty of our Creator, and as I listen I can only breathe out my thanks for the mercy of our Lord in our times of tribulation.  

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