February 23, 2016

We sing our faith and our faith sings!

Eleanor Vander Linde loved music! She hummed through her housework, she sang in the church and community choirs and she provided music lessons for her four daughters—who all grew up loving and performing music. In a short memoir of her life Eleanor wrote, “My whole life I lived with music, music in my heart, mind and voice!” In honor of Eleanor, I’m sharing two lessons that we, who also love music, might learn from. 

A Missionary of Music

Many people love music for themselves. But Eleanor was a missionary of music. She wanted others to be as blessed by music as she was. So she did more than sing for herself. She put in hours of volunteer time to organize concerts, serve on the Bach society planning committees and recruit other singers for the church choir. 

Years ago, my mom wanted to sing in the church choir, but she had three rambunctious girls at home and she didn’t dare leave us alone with hot curling irons on a Sunday morning! Eleanor talked her own husband into the responsibility of corralling my sisters and me, making sure we got to church on time, so that my mom could also have the blessing of singing in the choir. 

Hymns as Formation

In her memoir, Eleanor also testified to the formative power of hymns in her life. She wrote, “we sing our faith, and our faith sings!” Many hymns develop a doctrine throughout the whole song, some take a full verse to make a significant statement, but Eleanor told me she found a few “one-liners” that expressed deep statements of faith. Her favorite was …Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul…

Inspired by her, I’ve done some sleuthing and found she’s right. The one-liners are harder to come by, but so very profound:

In Christ alone my hope is found…

…though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet….

…Jesus sought me when a stranger… (the first three words are enough!)

...from sorrow, toil and pain and sin we shall be free…

Look for yourself. I’m sure you already select songs that, in their entirety, communicate faith. Keep your eyes open for those tightly worded, richly moving phrases that pack big truth in small packages.

On January 20, after 92 years of singing her faith on this earth, Eleanor took her place in the alto section of heaven’s choir. (She had confided in her daughters that she hoped it would be conducted by J.S. Bach!) May those of us who love music like Eleanor did carry on her legacy in these two ways:

  • Make it our mission to engage others in the blessing of church music.
  • Encourage faith formation by selecting and singing songs with memorable words of life-giving truth.

Rev. Joy Engelsman is a multivocational pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. She preaches frequently in Denver-area congregations, provides ministry coaching throughout North America, and serves as a missionary with Youth for Christ/Africa developing staff and leaders.