Brethren offer music online for inspiration, solace, healing

Nancy Miner, a gifted pianist and a member of the denominational staff serving as office manager for the General Secretary, has been posting piano performances via Facebook Live. Many are beloved hymn tunes. Recently she recorded “Move in Our Midst” for use in an inaugural “Messenger Radio” podcast from the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine featuring publisher Wendy McFadden reading her poem titled “Waiting.” Listen in by clicking the “COBCAST–Church of the Brethren podcast” button at www.brethren.org/messenger/articles/from-the-publisher/waiting .

Many Church of the Brethren musicians have been stepping up to provide online performances, concerts or festivals, music downloads, and other offerings for inspiration, comfort, solace, and healing. Following are just a few of these musicians (if you have been inspired by a Brethren musician during this crisis, let Newsline know by sending an email to cobnews@brethren.org ):

— The “Sing Me Home Festival” is an innovative new partnership between the band Friends with the Weather and Manchester Church of the Brethren in North Manchester, Ind. Co-coordinators are Chris Good and Seth Hendricks. Launched online on April 12 with a Friends with the Weather concert, the festival is about to start it’s fifth week of online programming. According to a release, “the festival has featured more than 20 concerts and talks from luminaries such as Addison Agen, Carrie Newcomer, May Erlewine, Steve Kinzie, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, and Dr. Drew Hart. The upcoming and final week in this initial online offering will include performances/talks from Jacob Crouse, Zander Willoughby, Sadie Gustafson-Zook, Ethan Setiawan, and festival co-coordinator Seth Hendricks.” What was originally envisioned to be an inaugural gathering in October 2020 in North Manchester “has radically transformed,” said the release. “If there ever was a moment to Sing Me Home, THIS IS IT.” Good, a musician and activist from Ann Arbor, Mich., commented on the healing power of music for this moment in time: “The visions and dreams of all of our early 2020 days have surely been shook by the fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and grief that have settled in wide and deep…yet, so much remains the same. We all yearn for voices of healing, vision, and love to break through the noise and give us courage to step into right relationship with each other and the earth. We have been deeply moved by the engagement and enthusiasm that the festival has received in just a few short weeks as people have tuned in from across the country and the world. Our hope is that it can continue to serve as a space for people to come together to be inspired and restored during these challenging times.” The upcoming week 5 theme is “Sing Me Home with Love.” Learn more about the festival and watch the festival trailer at singmehome.org . Stream all programming and archives at www.facebook.com/singmehomefestival . Read a “Local Spins” article about the festival at https://localspins.com/online-sing-me-home-fest-tourism-worker-relief-concerts-ramp-up-as-live-shows-go-dark .

— Shawn Kirchner of La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, who is composer-in-residence at the Los Angeles Master Chorale, has delighted church congregations and denominational gatherings–including Annual Conference–with his musical gifts for performance and composition. During the COVID-19 crisis he has been offering live music online on his Facebook page, including favorite hymns like today’s Facebook performance of “Holy Holy Holy.” One of the most popular YouTube performances of his compositions is of a choral piece titled “I’ll Be on My Way,” recorded by the University of La Verne Chamber Singers in 2018, conducted by Dr. Irene Messoloras and filmed at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, Calif. Find it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6EbWTem0tQ .

— Ryan Arndt, organist at West Green Tree Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa., has been part of a unique hymn sing held over YouTube. For this time of shutdown and uncertainty, the church created a live stream through YouTube for the congregation to worship without having to meet face to face. After a few weeks of worship, they decided to add midweek ministries. They also came up with the idea for the hymn sing in which people could send in hymn requests ahead of time, for hymns to be sung and played in a live stream event with the lyrics displayed for attendees to sing along at home. The first hymn sing was planned as a one-time event, Arndt reported, but it had more than 200 live attendees and so the congregation decided to offer it on a weekly basis each Monday night at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). People from other states have been tuning in, he reported, including Florida, Michigan, California, Arizona, Washington, and even Canada. “We did this first as an encouragement for our church body, but it has grown to be a tremendous outreach,” he wrote. “A church of 175 people on a Sunday is reaching hundreds through the use of live streaming.”

— Linda Williams, a Church of the Brethren musician, songwriter, and peace activist in San Diego, Calif., is offering free downloads of the songs she has written and posted online over the years during the pandemic. Much of her music is written for children, and she contacted Newsline to share that her songs may be a way for families staying safe-at-home to share Brethren values of faith and peacemaking with their children. “I was reviewing these songs for another project, and it occurred to me that the words of ‘Grant Me Patience, Lord,’ and ‘The Serenity Prayer’ might be helpful to others as we experience these trying times!” Her website also is offering songs to help children deal with difficult feelings. Williams is offering a free download of her music during this time, visitors to her website at https://lkwbetterworld.wordpress.com are welcome to simply enter $0 at check out.

— Mike Sievers is another of the many Church of the Brethren members offering special musical offerings online. For a recent online worship service from Brookville Church of the Brethren, he shared a song he had written more than three decades ago. Here is his note to Newsline: “As I’ve been going through my musical archives over this past week, I came across a praise song that I wrote when I first became a Christian, over 35 years ago. Susan and I recorded it back then with the group, Garment of Praise, and I have included it in this service.” Find the Brookville service at https://youtu.be/O01fpnDuSJI .