One of the greatest privileges of being a church musician is that of providing music for memorial services. During my tenure at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church I have provided music for more than 1,500 memorial services.
The range of music offered includes organ solos, organ with solo singer, organ with instruments, organ with choir, and a broad variety of other instrumental selections, provided by string quartets, guitar, trumpet, and yes, bagpipes. At my brother’s memorial service we heard a lone harmonica player – my brother was a passionate and gifted harmonica player. In the midst of this diversity of musical offerings was a great truth: that the healing and unifying power of music offered to the glory of God, comforts and reassures grieving families and their friends.
This Sunday, our glorious BMPC family will come together to remember those who have left their earthly lives over this past year to be united with God in heaven. While All Saints Sunday is a solemn time, it is neither funereal nor morbid. It is worship that is filled with the affirmation that God walks beside each of us throughout life. It is worship that underscores the truth that our communal relationships with one another include caring in times of grief. It is a time for our children and youth to learn that being the church is not only celebrating in joy, it is also sharing in one another’s burdens. And it is a time for adults to learn that children and youth have much to teach us about supporting one another and being open to the entire gamut of human emotions.
This All Saints Sunday, at the 10:00 a.m. service, John Rutter’s sublime Requiem will bathe our worshiping BMPC family with some of the most beautiful music of the late 20th century. Combining children, youth and adult voices with orchestra, Rutter takes the worshiper on a journey that acknowledges the lament of loss while extending the hope that, “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Your BMPC singers pray that this Sunday will be a time of re-affirmation of this sure and certain promise.