I went to church on Sunday. I am not settled into my new call yet, but somehow I just wanted to worship with people, so I went to a church service where I knew the musician, and sat by myself in the middle of a row. It felt a little odd, and I will confess that I wasn't entirely sure that I belonged, sitting alone in the middle of a pew like that. I will also confess that while I felt a little lonely, I wasn't entirely sure that I wanted to be noticed, either.
It was the late service, not particularly full, but not too empty either. Respectable, for summer. Instead of preaching, I listened to someone else's sermon. Instead of leading worship, I prayed the responses, sang the hymns and liturgy, listened, reflected, meditated. Okay, maybe my mind wandered a little at times as well. But I did all right, for someone who hasn't sat in a pew much for many years. I even sang harmony on some of the hymns.
Back in the day, that was one of the things I did. As soon as I learned how to read music, I used to try to sing the alto parts on hymns, sometimes. It made things more interesting. Later on, I tried singing the tenor part an octave higher. During my time of evangelical fervor in college, I made up my own harmonies sometimes.
My sister and I used to sing together. She played a little guitar, and we had a few songs that I could sing harmony on. Sometimes she sang alto, and I sang the melody. At my dad's funeral, we were sitting together and she was singing the harmony parts, just like we used to. I tried it too, but the lump in my throat got in the way.
We all have a place in the body of Christ, and I used to think that mine was singing harmony from my pew. It turns out God had a couple of other things in mind. But singing harmony from your pew is not a small thing, even though it is not as flashy as some other gifts. Back when I sat in the pew, I also used to be one of those adults who would make eye contact with babies, and make faces at them until they responded to me in some way. Often, they would end up fussing. (I have occasionally wondered whether God thought I should be a pastor so that I would stop annoying babies and their parents in that way. Who knows?)
On Sunday, at the end of the service, the woman sitting one row in front of me said hello, and said she enjoyed listening to me sing the harmony.
It was a small thing, but it made me feel glad that I came. It was good to be there, not just to receive, and not just to 'be fed', but also to give, and to lead, but in different way. There are leaders hidden all around the congregation, and in the world too, doing important work, even though only a few ever hear or see or touch it. They are singing harmony. They are showing a stranger the right page for the hymns. They are speaking up for the children. They are making sandwiches for the hungry.
It is important work.
Soon, I'll be standing in front of a different congregation, finding my place, looking out into new faces, singing the melody with them. But I hope to get a chance to sing harmony sometimes too, and to give thanks for the gift of all of our voices.