An Invitation…to Return Home by Ryan Marvel, Music Director

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In late August of this year, I returned from my vacation on a Tuesday afternoon. I walked in to the office and sorted through some mail, phone messages and emails. I began ordering choir music and thinking about new hymns I would like to introduce this year. In a sense, catching up and getting organized for the year.
I was surprised at how comforted I felt at the smell of the church. Hmmmm. Had I ever noticed it? I must have, pausing at this recollection. It was odd…and quite poignant. After a few moments, I began to focus on the upcoming Sunday service.
The drive in to church that Sunday was a little bittersweet. Anytime one returns from an extended break, there is bound to be a little re-entry anxiety. Right? And especially after some challenges last year, I was very aware of that feeling. I walked in, saying hello to my wonderful colleagues and exchanging hugs and smiles with the many volunteers who make this place go. Some of that anxiety began to melt away.
What I did not anticipate, however, was what happened next. I began the prelude and said my usual “Good Morning!” to invite everyone to sing. The echo came back, reflected on faces and through eyes. By the time we got to the end of the first line of “There’s a River flowin in my soul…”, I was overwhelmed. I felt a powerful, unexpected and beautiful feeling of returning home. I couldn’t sing. My throat was closed. Tears. I could only listen as I played. The harmonies, the smiles on your faces, the vitality of this community, the people who make this church what it is…the entire experience was what I could only define as deeply spiritual. We continued with “Hush” and I walked up and down the aisle, touching many of your shoulders as I passed. Again, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of renewal.
This building – the sights, sounds, smells – is home. This community – the people, the love and respect that reside here – is home. You all brought me back to this place of love and comfort. This place where we all find friends and family, new and old. This place where we can sing at the top of our lungs and not be ashamed if we are off key. This place where we can be challenged and rewarded by questioning our own path. This place where we can weep silently or celebrate exuberantly. This place…is home. May we continue to invite one another to return home on Sundays and beyond.

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