I believe in music. Of course I don’t simply mean that I believe music exists, rather I believe that the existence of music is the greatest gift we have in this world. While the stomach needs food and the lungs need air, the heart and soul need music above all else. I believe that the reason that the caged bird sings is because that is the only time when it is free, and when I sing, my spirit is free to soar to places that my body can never know. I believe that when I listen to music, I am transported and moved and when I play music I feel a holy communion. The true gift of music is that I don’t have to be gifted in music to receive music’s gift.
A person who cannot paint can appreciate a masterpiece, and someone with no athletic skill can marvel at an athlete, but even someone who sings like I do can not only like music but actually and actively participate in it. This I have believed from a very young age when I learned to play my Walk-man. I sang along to every note of every cassette I owned blissfully unaware that when I sang, I sang loudly and poorly. It didn’t matter. The ability to sing united me with the song, its structure and movement, its meaning and feeling. It lifted my spirit and exercised my soul.
Even more amazing is experiencing music together. At a U2 concert surrounded by 60,000 people, most of whom I imagine sang as poorly as I do, we all united in singing the words of the 40th Psalm. “I will sing, sing a new song,” and together we sounded much better than we ever would have sounded alone. The transcendence of that moment was a striking lesson, and ever since then music has been my daily devotional.
I believe in music to inspire and uplift, to sooth and comfort, to release and build emotion. But more than anything, I believe music is the greatest gift because it is the most enduring gift. As a minister, I have often I gone into nursing homes to see people who have lived long lives full of loved ones and events that they can no longer remember. I have set with people who cannot remember my name or why I am there, but sing or play a few notes of an old cherished song, and they remember. I won’t say it comes back to them because it never left them, and in that way I believe that music is our surest sign of God’s steadfast presence in this world.
I believe, I know, that when the day comes and I am in their place whatever else I have lost, music will still be with me. My hope is that anyone who visits me in the nursing home will know the first line to “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I believe that I will be able to take it from there.
Rev. Chris Stillwell is from Wheeling, WV and now lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Jessica, and his children, Owen and Charlotte.. He attended TCU from 1999-2002 where we earned his Master of Divinity degree from the Brite Divinity School. He is a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where he has served as the senior minister of the Christian Church of Connellsville for the past twelve years.