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Come, Let Us Worship the Lord

by Kaity Teer Come, Let Us Worship the Lord

One body, one voice, one stirring invitation

For 12 days this summer, the wonders of the Emerald Isle found a place in the hearts of Greenville College Choir members who sang their way through coastal vistas and historic cityscapes in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Photo by Kathryn KelleyMore than 30 students performed in Belfast, Derry, Galway, Killarney, Kilkenny and Dublin. Their program, “Be Thou My Vision: Irish and American Reflections,” drew inspiration from a prayer bearing St. Patrick’s name. The program included Irish, British and American works. 

Brian Hartley ’79, professor of religion and dean of the School of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, was among the alumni, faculty, staff and friends who accompanied the choir. He recalled audiences moved to tears by the beauty of the music and passion of the choristers. “Several [listeners] mentioned how they experienced the presence of Christ in the performance,” he said.

The tour marked Hartley’s third international trip with the choir. His insights supplemented the students’ sightseeing experiences with historical, cultural and theological context.

For example, when they visited a church that Cromwell’s troops defaced during the religious conflict of the mid-seventeenth century, he explained the complicated history of Protestant and Catholic tensions. He also described the significant contributions of Ireland’s medieval monasteries. “We were privileged to sing the benediction in the remains of a seventh-century monastic church,” Hartley said. “It was one of those moments where the present and the past came rather powerfully together.” 

Sacred music has always supported spiritual formation. It helps believers to experience Christ within and enriches the central acts of Christian worship – Word and Sacrament. “Those who lead in song function to assist the community in listening to one another and to God,” Hartley said. “Music dwells deep in our hearts and lives. It remains with us and forms us in ways of which we may not even be aware.” 

Photo by Pam WilsonSacred listening takes place among the choristers as well. Conductor Jeffrey Wilson often encourages his students to consider themselves members of one body. “When people sing together it’s an excellent example of the kind of community we’re called to in the body of Christ,” he said. “We’re worshipping God together. When one part of the body, or section of the choir, is lagging or has difficulties, the rest of the body feels it. When another part excels, we’re all elevated.” 

Alumni who traveled with the choir, many of them former choir members, felt welcomed on the tour by the students. One alumna who celebrated her eightieth birthday on the trip declared it the best birthday of her life.

Students also drew bystanders in with impromptu, informal performances. A highlight for all was when they encircled their tour guide and sang a benediction, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

“He was moved to tears,” remembered Greenville College First Lady Kathie Filby. “I really don’t think the students realize how inspirational their performances are.”

Choral music with powerful words resounds in the heart and mind to touch listeners deeply. “As a choir, we often sing sacred texts, including hymns, Scripture, Psalms, or poems with sacred themes,” Wilson said. “And I try to choose texts that help people think about important spiritual matters.”

Unique among instruments, the human voice lifted in song fuses words and music. Physical inspiration – the mechanism of the breath – supports these vocalizations.

“People respond to the human voice,” Wilson said. “It makes for a very personal expression since the instrument is in you; it is you. The choir members breathe in and from the foundation of their breath, share music with others.”

Past and present members of the Greenville College Choir carry their instruments with them wherever they go. They also carry the ability to inspire others and share the presence of Christ – beside, before, behind, within, below, and above – whether in a medieval monastery or a church pew at home.

Scholarships extend GC’s heritage in worship and music to talented students who comprise today’s choir. Click here to give

This story was published on October 21, 2015

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