Singing with the Choir

October 25, 2018
  • Rebecca Lawrence, Choir Member

It is rare in life where we walk into a space and it immediately feels like home, especially when we were terrified to take the first step. I suppose I should preface this with a description of what home looked like to me. I grew up in a very diverse religious background with a culturally Jewish, temple-averted father, an Episcopalian mother whose only reason for not converting was her reluctance to give up Christmas, and a Buddhist grandmother who took up a Tuesday bible study group for the community it brought. My own faith was mixed as well; I identified strongly with the earth-based religions of our distant family, but had never been quite able to shake the Jewish underpinnings of my childhood. I have always been fascinated by religion, and more so the observance of ritual. I remember a day a few years back where I had been fortunate enough to visit Paris with my grandmother. It was chilly and raining, so we thought to seek shelter in Notre Dame. As soon as we walked through the threshold, we were engulfed not only by warmth and light, but by the choir performing some sort of melodic chanting. I took a step back and thought how powerful that moment was; how you could feel generations of worshipers’ faith like a veil around you, something with a literal, spiritual weight.

I came to Cedar Lane after a series of major life events took place, each rocking my self-contained world: graduation from university, my wedding, my father’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. I felt a yearning for some sort of spiritual support, some connection to others that went beyond general pleasantries. So, one Belief-O-Matic internet quiz later, and I was sitting in the Cedar Lane sanctuary, listening to a sermon on earth-based religions, meditating with the congregation, and hearing stunning music performed by some of the congregation’s own. Over the next couple of weeks, I studiously read the program insert every Sunday, and saw that the choir was recruiting new members. Coming from a musical-theatre background, that spoke to me, yet also filled me with anxiety. What if I don’t have time? What if I’m not good enough for them? Will I fit?

Then one Sunday, following the last hymn of the service, the woman in front of me turned around and said, “You should really join the choir, you’d be perfect for it!” Something in her conviction gave me the courage to take the first step and reach out to Dr. Henry Sgrecci about joining. Lo and behold, once I did, my fears were instantly calmed. He told me, “If you can make it up those steps to the choir loft, carry a tune, and work with a shared sense of purpose and a smile, we welcome you.” That Wednesday night, I walked those steps for the first time, still fighting off a bad case of laryngitis and practically shaking with nerves and even despite that, was truly welcomed with open arms. And when we raised our voices together, suddenly I was back in Notre Dame, being uplifted by the warm weight of the voices around me.

Since then, the choir and Dr. Henry have been a constant source of support and encouragement, between checking in on each other in times of hardship to the laughs we share in between particularly difficult verses. Singing with the Cedar Lane choir is not just an embracement of camaraderie or community – although it has definitely brought me both. It is a profoundly spiritual experience. Before Cedar Lane, I had never known church to be a place of openness, acceptance, and love, yet now I often find myself thinking that our Wednesday night rehearsals and Sunday morning services are the two times of the week where I find the most inner peace.

And to the woman who first turned around and suggested I join the choir – thank you. I will forever be in your debt.