Sing, Ye Choirs of Angels!

After worshiping the Dark Mother Kali at a full moon Hindu puja, it was rather jarring to sing about the birth of the King of Light at a candle lit Christian service the next day.

The Lampeter university chapel is a lovely community, and I’ve sung off and on there for the last two and half years. This was my third carol service – and my third year singing the opening ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ solo. While I’ve gotten musically rusty here, I wasn’t sick this year! A Christmas miracle!

St David's Chapel at the University in Lampeter

I love high church – the ‘smells and bells’, the liturgy, the robes, all of it. However, the more comfortable I get with myself, witchcraft, and what I really believe about the world and the Divine, the less I can stomach a lot of the God language and concepts. I was particularly distracted this year and I did my best to zone out during the scripture readings. While I might not agree with all of the lyrics I still adore singing the traditional carols. Many of them were written or arranged by Big Name ‘classical’ composers and they are such fun to sing. I believe in the Christmas spirit – peace to all men – and so I feel warm and fuzzy when all the voices together sing out loudly about love, peace, joy, hope and tenderness (which is what the story of the Nativity means to me).

After the service there was mulled wine and minced pies for all. A friend of mine here, a member of the church, spoke with me and mentioned her surprise upon discovering that I am not a Christian. She shared with me her story of joining the church and how she doesn’t see God like most of the other members do and that she too zones out during parts of the services. I think this is more common than I realize. I don’t think all people see God in the same way. Clearly, you can have people sharing the same pew in the same church and have widely different views. Why is this so hard for me?

For all of my both/and thinking, I tend toward all or nothing thinking when things get close to my heart. The closest thing to my heart, the thing that I feel most vulnerable (aka stupid) talking about is this: everything I write about on this blog. Do I fail to join in because I want it all my own way? Or do I refuse to settle for something that isn’t a good fit? I’ve been thinking about this for two days now and I think it’s the latter.

It isn’t that I don’t think there’s room for all in the Church (or any particular faith or community), it’s that I don’t want to have to translate every time I go to share in spiritual community. I don’t want to have to feel left out – and while theologically most priests ‘know’ that God isn’t a gendered male, all that male God language privileges the gender and body that I am not. I don’t want to pledge my allegiance (through baptism) in order to share in the bread and wine. I don’t want to have to engage with texts that suggest God okayed genocides (in the Old Testament) or think that this world isn’t our home (the New Testament). I don’t want feudal or martial language, because it’s mostly used as exclusionary and furthers us v them thinking. I don’t want to have to use words that repeatedly convey my ‘unworthiness.’

It looks like my Christian quarter has started early. I will cling to my Feri quarter for as long as I can – eight more days. The next quarter is going to be a lot more muddy, theological and challenging for me.

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About Niki Whiting
  • Elaine

    Niki, I do agree with much of what you say. I am agnostic, in that I don’t KNOW,(which probably means I don’t have FAITH). I feel like a small spec in the universe and though I do believe in some kind of creator, I don’t have an image for who/what that might be. For me, the music is the thing. As a musician, my spiritual life happens in singing, conducting, listening to music. Something happens when music-making with others, a shared spirit, a shared community, something more than just the group of people and the notes. Occasionally, very occasionally, there is a feeling of “channelling”, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know I am in the presence of something more than us humans. When all our hearts are together, doing our best, striving for “harmony” in all its senses, that is what does it for me, that is when I feel alive. I gave up any kind of allegiance to the beliefs that women are second-rate beings (either that, or revered virgins on a pedestal) some years ago. I dislike the concept of original sin that I was brought up with as a Catholic, I dislike the thought that babies who die before being baptised go to “limbo” rather than heaven, I dislike the violence and certainty of Christian (and other) religions. Perhaps Adler’s Individual Psychology has become my religion – his notion of Social Interest is wonderful, that sense of belonging that we all crave in all our doings. Thanks so much for your clear and congruent writing, I always look forward to reading your posts.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram myownashram

      Music is so deeply spiritual! Any kind of music too, doesn’t have to be classical!

      Thank you for reading, for commenting so thoughtfully, for encouraging me, and for making music with me! I will miss singing with you.

  • Elaine

    Yes, I agree about any kind of music, although there are particular types of music that feel closer to my soul, that I am more “tuned” to. I am going to miss you too and hope that our session on Sunday goes ahead – weather, lurgies, time permitting! xxxx


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