“Sing to the Lord a New Song!”

By Mike Milam, Minister of Music

Psalm 96 opens with these well-known and well-loved words. One of my fondest early memories of St. John’s is the first children’s choir rehearsal of the 2000-01 year. Approximately twenty-five elementary-aged children showed up on a Sunday evening, settled in, then stood up and began to sing to the Lord with strong, pure voices. The look on my face must have been one of shocked delight. I responded with an enthusiastic, “Wow!” which was followed by an innocent voice somewhere in the group asking “Is that good?” I remember the laughter that erupted as we all relaxed and began what I started referring to as “my weekly case of goosebumps.” We often reminded each other at the beginning and end of our rehearsals to “sing to the Lord a new song.”
   As I think about our children’s music program—past, present, and future—there is indeed much for which to be thankful. The gifts of time and talent given by so many children, parents, leaders, and volunteers over the years have allowed us to continually have a new song to sing. And here we are again. As we all emerge from some very dark days and a great deal of uncertainty, we find ourselves carefully moving forward to define our “new normal.” It is once again time to “sing to the Lord a new song.”
   With all the activities now competing for the time and energy of children and youth, why choose to sing in a church choir? Here are some thoughts…

  • While we rely on our devices daily to stay connected with the world around us, making music with others represents a completely different level of interactivity that develops teamwork and the ability to work toward a common goal while creating art and beauty. The bonds created among friends while making music can be quite strong, and long-lasting friendships often develop.
  • Music education leads to music appreciation. The goal is not to train everyone to be a musician (although some will be). For all involved, it’s a chance to develop a lifelong appreciation of an art form that surrounds us and impacts us daily, no matter our vocation.
  • Being a part of the choir strengthens the connection to church for children and youth and increases the likelihood that they will continue to make the church a part of their lives into adulthood.
  • Participating in music develops self-esteem and confidence and has a positive impact on motor and sensory skills as well as cognitive function.
  • Participating in the musical leadership of a service helps children and youth feel the power and presence of God within the context of worship.

   Beginning again in September, St. John’s Music Academy (for grades K-5) meets 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and offers vocal experiences, instrumental activities, creative movement, musical games, and Christian education as we explore Bible stories, the organization of the church year, and prayer. St. John’s Singers (for grades 6-12) meets 3:30 – 4:45 on Sundays. In addition to a vocal/choral focus, youth develop and refine music-reading skills while exploring the role of music in the church and in their lives. Both groups regularly lead music during worship. Come join us as we once again “sing to the Lord a new song!” Please reach out anytime; I’m always happy to talk about these programs!  
   E-mail Mike Milam at mmilam@stjohnsroanoke.org.

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