STJ#1054, Let This Be a House of Peace

There’s a thing that’s been happening in our congregations that is reflective of what’s been happening in our society: anxiety.

Anxiety about the current administration – its real and sustained attacks on our principles and the real and sustained traumas we are experiencing – spill over from our personal lives into our houses of worship. And while we’d like to think we are our best selves at our congregations, we often are not. And suddenly, we find ourselves more anxious about things we can’t control and a bit overprotective of things we can. Things that were never an issue before are now a crisis, and things that require focus and attention get obscured by the day’s outrage.

Sound familiar?

It’s a natural thing, what we are experiencing – and I know religious professionals are in some cases struggling to help the congregations they serve remain focused on health and growth. There are many resources being employed, and I’m not here to talk about things like family systems or congregational management – there are many resources and well trained colleagues out there. But what I do know is that the one hour most of us spend together each week matters.

In that one hour each week, we can experience a pause in the action, that can help us deal with anxiety. We should be offering worship that subtly (or not so subtly) pushes the rudder to help us correct course, that provide comfort for those worn, frayed nerves while challenging the status quo. We need sermons and readings that call us to our best selves. And we perhaps most of all, music that reminds us of who we are and who we want to be must ring through our sanctuaries.

Like this one, another beauty by Jim Scott:

Let this be a house of peace,
Of nature and humanity,
of sorrow and elation,
Let this be our house,
A haven for the healing,
An open room for question,
and our inspiration.

Chorus:
Let this be a house of peace.
Let this be our house of peace.

Let this be a house of freedom;
Guardian of dignity
and worth held deep inside us,
Let this be our house,
A platform for the free voice,
Where all our sacred diff’rences
here shall not divide us.

Chorus

Let all in this house seek truth,
Where scientists and mystics,
abide in rev’rence here,
Let this be our house,
A house of our creation,
Where works of art and melodies
consecrate the atmosphere.

Chorus

Let this be a house of prophesy,
May vision, for our children
Be our common theme.
Let this be our house
Of myth and lore and legend,
Our trove of ancient story,
and cradle of most tender dreams.

Chorus

Now I’m on the fence about this being a congregational sing, because of two things: while The Oneness of Everything is considered long for a hymn, this one is actually really long and is hard to cut down without glaring omission; additionally, unlike Jim’s other songs, each verse has a different rhythm – fine for a solo or choral work, hard for a congregational sing.

And yet, the melody is gorgeous, and the chorus is amazing; even if this is only ever sung by a choir or soloist, the congregation should sing the chorus, repeating it as a mantra, especially noting the change from “a house” to “our house.” The lyrics (with more delightful phrases like “where works of art and melodies consecrate the atmosphere”) serve as reminders of who we are and want to be in crystal clear, yet still lush language. It is a wonderful piece for services about the sources and the third and fourth principles, but mostly a wonderful piece to use anytime we need to remind ourselves what our congregations should be at the best.

I’m not sure any of us – individuals or institutions – are at their best right now. But it’s nice to remember that a vision of what ‘best’ could be sits in our hymnals, ready for us to invoke.

I love this image of the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand – via Pixabay.

One Comment

  1. I agree — a wonderful song, but better suited (like many in our hymnals) for soloist or choir, rather than congregational singing. BTW, when I told the worship leader recently that the hymns they had selected for the upcoming Sunday service were too difficult, he was surprised. He said, “I just assumed that anything in the hymnal was meant for congregational singing.” 😉

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