This fall and winter I have had the privilege of making music with the kids of Derry Church. I work (play really!) with them in four different settings:
- On Sunday mornings from 9:00-9:15 am, I make music with preschool through 5th grade children.
- On Tuesday nights from 5:45-6:15 pm, I make music with preschool and Kindergarten children.
- From 6:15-6:45 pm, I make music with 1st-5th grade children
- From 6:45-7:15 pm, I ring bells and chimes with 2nd-5th grade children.
Some kids I only see in one setting. Others I see at two or three. Some are there every week. Others only drop by occasionally. I am thrilled to work with all of them!
Throughout this fall, the kid’s musical skills have improved immensely. Children who could only use their talking voice in September have now found their singing voice. 1st-5th grade students who could echo rhythmic patterns with only partial accuracy are now reading rhythms on their own. Second grade students who struggled to get a bell to make a sound in September are ringing songs with multiple bells. Everyone’s singing range is expanding. Their pitch accuracy is solidifying. Their blend is improving. We’re singing in canons! It’s really, really exciting!
As exciting as developing musical skills together is, that’s not our primary focus. Where we have really focused is using music to explore our relationship with God.
For example, we’ve spent almost half our time singing songs that have Alleluias or Hallelujahs. We talked about Alleluia being the way we say “Yay!!!” in church. Then we went on to discuss that Alleluias and Hallelujahs are used in many countries and in many languages.
If you were in church on December 4, you heard two songs that were from opposite sides of the world but each used Alleluia to celebrate. “He Came Down” is a lilting song of praise from Cameroon in West Africa sung by the Preschool-Kindergarten group (Joyful Noise). “Jubilate Deo/Raise a Song of Gladness” is a song of praise from the Taizé Community in France that the 1st-5th grade Celebration Singers sang in Latin, English, and as a canon!
We’ve explored many other songs with Alleluias from other parts of the world that haven’t made it to a church service. We’ve also discussed that sometimes we don’t feel like saying “Yay!” to God. Sometimes we want to cry, ask for help, or scream at God, and there are songs for those times, too.
As we develop our musical skills and explore our relationship with God, a community is being formed. On Tuesday evenings, I watch preschoolers who cried in September pause at the door to the music room, give their adult a quick hug and then, beaming, skip/gallop into the room to hop on my train—named “Engine No. 9”—that everyone is riding. 1st-5th grade children who were nervous to sing at all in September shoot their hands into the air when I ask if anyone wants to lead the sung greeting on their own; then cheer for each other when they get it right.
In Sunday School, I see 2nd-5th grade students patiently help the younger ones navigate a hymnal, their fingers carefully following the words. Before worship, after worship, and in the fellowship hall the kids wave at me or prance up to have a conversation. These kids feel safe and welcome at our church, both among their peers and with at least one adult. They are confident, they are comfortable, they are excited. Most importantly, they love being here. What more could we ask for our kids as a church?