Could Singing with the Dead Renew Our Worship?
Monday night I attended the moving memorial service for former Tennessee Baptist music minister, Phil Chaney. The service was accented by powerfully dramatic music sung and played by the huge choir and orchestra of Sevier Heights Baptist Church where Phil had served for fifteen years before moving to serve First Baptist Church Indian Trail outside Charlotte, North Carolina. Worship music for the memorial service was led by current Worship & Music Minister, Jon Tyner. As part of the service the congregation was invited to sing as well on songs of ministry and hope like Days of Elijah, and It Is Well with My Soul.
Reflections of Phil Chaney’s relationships with people were scattered through the service (and even in the choir’s warmup time preceding the service) by many means; personal testimonials by Phil’s brother, the testimony of so many choir members and musicians, a pre-service slide presentation of photographs from past youth choir trips, living Christmas Tree presentations, and family outings. None were any more moving than the exposition of Holy Scripture from Philippians shared by longtime pastor, Dr. Hollie Miller. The Word was alive as Brother Hollie affectionately shared his relationship with Phil in the Gospel. There was an art to the weaving of biblical truth and reflection of how this ministry duo had shared in this Gospel – Incarnation. It was powerful, and I could not help but pray with a deep conviction that we need more pastors and worship ministry leaders to be characterized by this kind of passionate relationship rooted in their love of the people God has called them to lead, and the joy of connecting those people to the truth of the Gospel-Good News!
As powerful and inspiring as the entire night’s experience was, nothing caught me off guard as profoundly as did the sound of Phil Chaney’s voice singing the Don Francisco song, He’s Alive. Jon Tyner was conducting the orchestra, a video came up with Phil in biblical garb singing in his usual dramatic fashion. It was surreal. Emotional? certainly. Technically astounding? Absolutely, and flawless I might add…you would think he was there. But as I drove the 200+ miles home I contemplated the thoughts spinning regarding the joining of our voices with those who have gone before. I thought about the communion of saints, and again reminisced about my own father’s voice, grandpa’s tenor hymn-heisting, and so many beloved members of choirs from churches I formerly served. I mused again about what it will be like in glory, gathered round the throne with every brother and sister who has gone before. All singing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” And now Phil was singing too – and so were we.
May those of us who help teach and lead the music of worship prepare worshipers to be singers of praise who will sing into eternity and join that “Yonder sacred throng.”