From the Choir Room


Uncertainty. Just saying the word gives me anxiety and shortens my breath. I have always prided myself on being flexible and adaptable both in my personal and professional life, but the “unknown” can shake even the most calm and collected among us.

Recently, uncertainty has overcome our day-to-day lives and the way we approach almost everything. As a choral conductor, the days of “will my choir be ready for the performance?” or “will we have an audience?” have now turned to “will we be able to sing together again?” or “when will live concerts return?” The safety of singing is a focus of my social media feed and has also been at the forefront of conversations amongst the musicians at St. Michael and St. George. To ensure the safety of our singers and parishioners while continuing to contribute to the musical gift of worship, we have adapted and moved forward with virtual anthems and hymns (19 hymns and 13 anthems as of today). Times of uncertainty can also lead to times of great creativity. At McKendree University, we returned to face-to-face classes on August 17th. While choir looks very different (smaller ensembles, shorter rehearsals, spread out in our chapel, singing with masks) one layer of uncertainty was removed on that first day as we opened rehearsal with the familiar benediction The Lord Bless You and Keep You by Peter C. Lutkin. I think I will always remember the collective experience in the room when we arrived at the seven-fold “Amen” on that particular day.

In our personal lives, uncertainty can also overwhelm and take control. In the midst of a pandemic, we may struggle with the uncertainty of our health or the health of our loved ones. Or perhaps the devastating effects this crisis has had on our economy has come to your doorstep and become all too real. In an election year where divisiveness, vitriol, and purposeful misinformation fill the airwaves and feeds, the moral health and direction of our country seems very uncertain. Recently, my older son, Tyler, was singing Happy Birthday to his mom. Upon finishing the enthusiastic performance, he added “and maybe more!” This, albeit hilarious, mix up of words also highlights an all too real uncertainty that mankind has struggled with for generations. How long do we have? What difference will we make with our time on earth? How will we be remembered?

I was reminded recently of a passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that gave me some reassurance during this time of uncertainty:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace with be with you.”
Philippians 4:4-9

So, in this time of uncertainty – take everything to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. In your everyday life, find whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise and know the God of peace is with you.

John McDonald
Tenor in the CSMSG Choir