This is the first of several parts.
I was a conscientious kid who loved going to church at Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church. My favorite parts were singing in the children’s choir and looking at the beautiful stained-glass windows when the sermons got boring. The windows depicted the life of Christ. As I remember there were seven or eight on each side. His birth in a stable was shown in the first one on the right, leading to his baptism by John in the next window, and so on down the right side and around to the left, culminating in his first resurrection appearance (or was it his ascension? I think that was it. I’m having trouble remembering) on the left closest to the front. Those stained-glass windows were an education in themselves, helping little kids who couldn’t pay attention to the sermon the basics of the faith in beautiful colored pictures that shone gloriously when the sun hit them just right.
I just looked all over the web for pictures of those beautiful windows and the best I can do is an image of someone’s wedding, when they aren’t even the focus. Besides, in 1990 the church redid the interior, changing the pew alignment, the choir arrangement and the color of the walls. Those windows will have to live on in my imagination. Because I can’t find a picture of that beautiful stained glass of my childhood, the header image is something just as glorious: the stained glass at Sainte-Chappelle in Paris. Be sure to click over to the site for the tour.
Learning to sing
Back in the early 70s kids’ choirs everywhere were singing “Do You Hear What I Hear” at Christmas. We did it for a big extravaganza presentation with the combined children’s and adult choirs. Our adult choir director and director of music, for many years, was Dr. Richard Conant, RIP, a wonderful singer, professor of voice at the University of South Carolina, and founding director of Carolina Alive.
I’ll never forget learning to pronounce the consonant sounds of the “x” and “c” in Excelsis – as in “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” because of Dr. Conant. He told us all children to remember it was like “eggshell” – Gloria in egg-shell-sis Deo. To this day I think of egg shells when I sing that phrase in church.
I’m convinced children’s choir practice is where I started my spiritual journey. I remember we sang a song based on Psalm 24 – “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Verses 3 and 4 made such an impression on me then:
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.Psalm 24:3-4
I remember thinking, I want to have clean hands. I want to ascend that hill.
To be continued….
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