How could your church’s adult choir do what it does best and serve your community well?  What kind of partnership would allow you to offer your gift of music and support another ministry or non-profit?  What sort of collaboration might benefit both your singers and someone not usually in your normal Sunday morning congregation?

Wilshire Baptist Church is proud to host the offices of the Grief and Loss Center of North Texas. The center offers support groups for children, teens and adults. GLC also provides on site grief support for schools, faith communities and places of employment. Clients don’t have to worry about the cost. There is no charge for any services.

About five years ago I heard an extraordinary new work, “Eternal Light: A Requiem” by Howard Goodall  written for soloists, choir and orchestra.  Known primarily as a British TV and film composer; fans of the BBC comedy, The Vicar of Dibley, may recognize “Psalm 23,” the charming theme music that opens the show. Goodall’s requiem premiered in London in 2008.  This “Requiem for the living, [addresses] their suffering and endurance, a Requiem focusing on the consequences of interrupted lives”.

When thinking about what strategic musical partnership might captivate our singers’ interest for the spring of 2016, I met with Laurie Taylor, Executive Director of the Grief and Loss Center, to discuss a partnership. When I discovered the GLC was celebrating its fifth anniversary, a real milestone for any non-profit, we began to explore how we could create an event with music as the centerpiece.  We planned to invite the clients of the Grief and Loss Center as well as Wilshire Baptist members. What emerged was an event where Laurie could talk about the mission of the center and where some selected clients would tell their stories of loss and healing. This is turn would create a setting for “Eternal Light.”  Our pastor, George Mason, was invited to offer closing words and a benediction.  WIlshire hosted a reception for the Grief and Loss Center after the concert and program.

Why do this?
First, in a city like Dallas with a world-class arts district and many first-rate music ministries, there is no shortage of great sacred choral music all year long.  However, for this event the Wilshire Sanctuary Choir was able to offer something unique.  Our singers sang with heart and art a classical choral work that was both masterfully crafted, accessible to listeners and a gift to the community, especially the clients of the Grief and Loss Center.

Second, our choir became aware this was not about us.  We became a choral community on a mission–to offer the gift of music as a healing balm for those who had suffered loss.  Of course, grief comes to us all eventually.  While learning this new choral work over several months many singers told me about their own cathartic experiences.  There were many rehearsals where I noticed a singer had stopped singing to fight back tears and yet she bravely persevered.

Third, music became ministry.  We did not change what we do well, sing traditional music, but we did seek to do something above and beyond, to intentionally reach out to those of faith and no faith.  We tried to meet people where they were in their grief.  The music was rich and profound, the texts poignant. This music spoke to the souls of those who had walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Doug Haney
Doug Haney has served as Minister of Music at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas TX since 2004. He previously served at Providence Baptist in Charlotte NC and churches in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. At Wilshire, he directs the choral program and supervises the church-wide music ministry, with major responsibilities for worship. Wilshire’s 90-voice Sanctuary Choir and 60-voice Youth Choir are renowned for their quality and innovative approach to traditional worship.

Haney coordinates a new service from CHC for churches seeking to infuse vitality, quality and vision into their worship and music ministry. The work will allow congregations to assess their current ministry and envision ways to enhance quality and foster innovation and relevance.