Our online book study of Rachel Held Evans' Searching for Sunday continues with a reflection from parishioner Jackie Keen. For next week, read section six: Anointing of the Sick.

Each week, one new entry by someone connected to the St. James’s community will post to this blog on Wednesday morning covering one section of the book. Please enter your email address to the right to receive these posts in your email inbox. Use the comment section to answer the discussion questions, and share these posts with your friends!


From the book:

"Madeleine L'Engle said, 'the great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.' I think the same is true for churches. Each one stays with us, even after we've left, adding layer after layer to the palimpsest of our faith."


Over the summer, I attended the Royal School of Church Music's summer course in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This intense course is for any avid choir singer who wants to strengthen their knowledge in music and singing, as well as grow a stronger connection with God.

Every day for a week I had spent singing for over eight hours, just to end with an extravagant Evensong on the final Sunday. I had to practice the music months before I arrived, but what they did not tell me was which hymns we would be singing. I must say, being in a choir really strengthens your knowledge with hymns, and after doing St. James's choir for six years, you end up pinning certain hymns to memory.

I am fairly sure that my conformation class would be able to agree that hymn 412, also know as "Earth and all Stars" could basically sum up how, well, crazy our experiences were together.

The hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", was being played while I had the healing team's arms around me while I asked for a prayer for my grandma to be healed from her MRSA, and Hymn 437, also known as "Tell Out, My Soul," was a common one the congregation did as a closing hymn during my first year in the choir. Little to my knowledge, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" and "Tell Out, My Soul" were two of the hymns I ended up having to sing while at the choir course. As soon as I saw these on the list, I instantly remembered all the memories I had with them.

I then came to realize I went from being in a small choir with 20 crazy children to a intense course with over 180 singers from all over the country. Considering I was now in a different state singing these powerful hymns with people I got to know in one short week, I realized I have grown since the last time I heard them.

Since my section of the book talked about finding your way through the confirmation process and how you end up growing as a person, I have come to notice that no matter what kind of memories you make and wherever you go, music tends to travel with you. No matter how much you grow and change, the words and the tunes stay the same in that book.

The next time you hear that one closing hymn you love, or even that one you once heard while Curtis or Bob offered you bread during communion, make a mental note of what is happening. You may hear it years down the road, and while you belt out those words for a whole church to hear, you may just realize how far you have traveled.