When people ask how I decided to become a church musician, I often respond “I was born into it.” As a child, I was baptized Roman Catholic, and, along with my siblings, attended church weekly with my father. And when I say “weekly,” I mean every single week, with very few exceptions. The only acceptable reason for missing church was an illness or a snowstorm that left the roads too dangerous for driving. And living in Rochester, N.Y. where we were accustomed to measuring snow in feet, not inches, it was an exceptional storm that kept us home.
It wasn’t just Sundays. We observed every holy day of obligation. We often went to both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. And we attended the full Triduum every year, and Easter morning, too.
Though we went to church often, we almost never went as a full family. My mother was a church musician. She worked for various denominations throughout my childhood, eventually settling in at a wonderful Episcopal church when I was nine years old. By the time I was in middle school, I had joined the youth group there and began singing in my mother’s youth choir. I loved that church and wanted to go every Sunday. Of course, I still had to attend my Roman Catholic parish as well. Church twice a week became the norm. It wasn’t long before I started taking organ lessons and playing for services, just like my mother.
For someone who grew up so deeply entrenched in the church, it’s perhaps odd that I had never belonged to any of the churches where I worked as an adult. That changed in 2017 when I became an Episcopalian and joined St. Peter’s. I often say St. Peter’s felt like home the very first time I walked in the door. Worshiping and making music here in this community has been such a gift.
Being able to attend church on Sunday is something I took for granted. That is until we shut down in March. The livestream has been a blessing and I am grateful for the Sundays I am there to play for it. But I miss worshiping together, and I know I am not alone. This time has made me mindful that, more than anything else, it is the community at St. Peter’s that has made it my church home.
Awhile back, Chase Branham brought an idea to me from St. Mary of the Hills in Blowing Rock: a service of Evensong, live over Zoom. The choir would sing plainsong, dividing up the verses among the singers. Everyone would be together, congregation and choir, on the call. St. Peter’s Choir began rehearsing and singing together again. We had our first virtual Evensong on June 14 and our second this past Sunday.
Worshiping this way on Zoom might sound awkward but there is something so deeply meaningful about it in this present moment. We can see each other’s faces, see people saying the prayers, and singing the hymns. We can hear the different voices of choir members and clergy. We can sing together and pray together as a community again.
We will continue to offer Evensong at 5:00 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month going forward. The link for the call, along with the leaflet, is posted on the website shortly before the service. In addition, we will begin offering Compline in the same way on the fourth Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Compline will begin with an extended organ prelude live on the St. Peter’s organ. I hope that you will come worship with us.
Elizabeth Lenti, Director of Music and Organist