L. Gail Irwin is an interim minister in Wisconsin and the author of Toward the Better Country: Church Closure and Resurrection (Wipf & Stock). She blogs at From Death to Life, part of the CCblogs network.
Many of us might assume that a church with only 32 members automatically qualifies as a “struggling church,” or even a dying church. But in the case of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Keansburg, New Jersey, many of us would be wrong.
Recently I visited a nearby country church with a tumultuous history. Built in a berg called Klondike, it was originally a Catholic church. In the ’90s, the building was hit by lightning. The volunteer fire department bravely climbed up into the attic and put the fire out, at some risk to their own lives. Repairs were made and the church went on.
But a few years later, in 2005, the diocese closed the church, and its members migrated to another nearby parish.
I started singing in church choirs when I was a teenager. There I learned to read music and find acceptance among the grown up singers. It was my church’s choir director who helped me find my spiritual voice again after a car accident that fractured my larynx. I went on to study vocal music, compose hymn lyrics and sing in choirs at my college, seminary and several churches over the years.
There is a special kind of relationship that forms among choir members. Something about those rehearsals, with their jokes, irritations and prayer rituals, creates a spiritual bond that can’t be replicated anywhere else.