Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Soul Singing

I don’t like for people to hear me sing. I don’t do karaoke. It’s a sign that I really trust you if I sing with the radio with you in the car.  But I love congregational singing. 

I grew up going to church – church, not just Sunday school. Some of my love of church music may be nostalgia. I learned the hymns standing next to my mother and sister, while watching my dad in the choir. I can still hear Rev. Smythe’s gusto and certain hymns take me back to the congregation of Parker United Methodist Church. But there’s more than nostalgia in the music for me. It forms my faith. There is a sense of belonging in the music. It weaves among us and makes us into a community. 

Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Guatemala where we made cooking stoves in homes. Teams of 2 or 3 from my church were paired with a mason with whom we worked the entire week. I was the only one on my team that spoke very much Spanish and our mason didn’t speak English. We found a common language on our second day in hymns. We sang some of our favorites to him, and he sang to us. With delight we discovered many hymns we all knew in both of our languages. 

When I’ve gone through difficult times in my spiritual life it’s music, particularly congregational singing, that’s brought me back. I can’t sing alone. I need the support of the congregation to have any hope of finding the notes. The truth of music, deeper than mere words, carries me. Music holds together lament and trust, joy and doubt. When I’m in the congregation, even if my head is uncertain and my heart hurts, my soul sings. 


  1. Linda Tamlyn

    I love this one, Melissa. I actually love all of your blogs – but this one is special. Congregational singing is special. Songs sung to the Lord in community will always be special to me.

    • admin

      Thanks, Linda. I always liked to get my jam on in worship.

  2. Norma Lee Kerns Barnhart

    Oh, wow, do I ever identify with this, Melissa! There have been times in my life that I would not have been in church except for the singing of hymns which supported my faith in ways nothing else did. I remember traveling with the Hymn Society of America some years ago to the UK. We were at the Wales Eisteddfod, their annual Festival of music. Our group was supposed to have translation ear phones but for some reason we did not. When “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was being sung in Welsh, I didn’t need a translation. It came through loud and clear! I wept as I listened to this language I couldn’t pronounce but understood fully !

    • admin

      Norma Lee, waht a beautiful story, Norma Lee. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Laurel Hill

    This is wonderful and so relatable for me! As a former church organist, no matter how frustrated I get with my Church, nothing moves me like congregational singing. And just singing and playing some of it at home by myself. I remember watching Barbara Bush’s funeral and the music was so moving…it brought me to tears. I often watch a State Funeral just for the music. Great post.

    • admin

      Laurel, as a pastor, music is one of the places during worship I really worship. I can let go of my ego and anxiety about “how’s it going” for a few minutes every worship service when we erupt into song.

  4. Larry Bauer

    So, will the traditional hymns that bind many of us begin to fade as younger generations gravitate to more modern Christian music and establish new standards? Or will they stand side-by-side?

    • admin

      Larry, I suspect some of the greats will endure, we’ll be introduced to new music, and the tradition will only grow richer. I’ll be happy if younger generations are in church to sing.

  5. Erin P. Gosser

    I always think of you when I hear, “How can I keep from singing?” 🙂

    • admin

      That is absolutely my favorite hymn! When I die I want it sung at my funeral and I want everyone who knows they don’t sing well to sing a verse on their own at full volume!

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