My eyelids fluttered open - then slowly crept droopily back towards a resting position, like two magnets being pulled with invisible force towards each other. I exerted every strand of energy I had to dredge my brain from the depths of complete, blissful, slumber.
My first thought was that the perplexing rat-a-tat noise drawing me away from sleep was related to a horde of bugs splattering against the windshield of my vehicle. But that lasted only for a moment.
After all, I was no longer in the dreamland of the Sax-Zim bog chasing down a Great Gray Owl only to see my moment of glory gleefully ruined by a drove of sadistic mosquitoes.
I was in bed, and the drumming noise I heard was rain, stopped on its journey to earth by our bedroom window. How fitting for the final day of our Laudate experience.
Just as rain nourishes the earth, so my soul has been revitalized by singing songs of hope and healing repeatedly.
Yet gray days are inevitably gloomy - and I felt a morsel of sadness within myself as well. Today was going to be a day of lasts. A day of goodbyes.
Those would come later though. Before the goodbyes, there was work to do.
We met at Pequea Christian School at 8:50 AM where we guzzled water to counteract all the coffee consumed just earlier, and did our best to expel the gurgles, scratches, and cracks from our morning voices. Only the basses swaggered around the room smugly, informing us that “Mornings don’t bother basses.”
Good for you guys - good for you. (Ok, I’m only intensely jealous that I can’t sing a low B with relative ease. Truly, it’s amazing what they can do).
We joined the morning worship service at Pequea Amish Mennonite Church, and delivered our program at the end of the service. It was a delight to sing on a Sunday morning to a group of people that live together in community. They are intimately acquainted with one another’s burdens, fears, dreams, and successes - nothing quite replicates an audience like that.
They gave us their kind attention, and for that I’m grateful.
Afterwards they served a delicious meal and invited us to eat with them. The result? Double gratefulness.
In all seriousness, I am astonished that a group of over 20 people can travel across multiple states and receive warm welcomes over and over again. I’m talking about red carpet welcomes - plush beds, warm showers, early morning scrambled eggs, and pleasant conversation.
It’s not a small thing. It’s community, hospitality, and love in action, and those are all big things. To each community that hosted us please accept our sincerest thank you.
After lunch we headed to Cliff and Trina’s house. A few people took the fleeting moments to snag necessary rest, but most of the afternoon was spent trying to wrap up our time together.
Honestly, how does one do that?
How do you “wrap-up” 2 weeks of constantly being in each other's presence? Of picking each other up, singing together, worshipping together, talking and laughing together, and quite literally, crying together?
It doesn’t feel quite possible to me, but we did our best. Long faces on the outside accurately reflected the sadness we felt at leaving each other. But stories of good memories, how we’ve been changing, reflections, and notes of appreciation were true echoes of the warmth we so acutely felt towards each.
It was particularly hard to find adequate words to address Ken Nafziger as he said goodbye to Laudate after 15 years as our artistic director.
Ken is supremely talented as a director who pushed us all to take complete ownership of our music and connect it directly to real life. Undeniably, he has left his fingerprints on our lives as individuals. Thank you seems far from a perfect message to Ken, but that's what words do. Maybe the song we sang "For He Shall Give His Angels Charge Over You" is more accurate.
After the wrap up time and a hurried, but delicious supper we made our way to Oasis Mennonite Fellowship to give our final program of the 2021 season.
The sanctuary bulged at the seams, with every chair to very corners filled. We enjoyed singing to such a large, attentive, and responsive crowd.
I’m always delighted when I see and feel the audience worshipping with us as we sing. After all, the audience completes the circle of worship. We are not singing for you, we are singing to you, or even better yet, with you.
It makes sense to me that the entire church should be the choir. Singing is not just for singers, singing is for believers.
After the program a few of the brave headed to Jesse’s house for one final hurrah. With no real reason to protect our voices we stayed up late, and shockingly enough talked and laughed loudly. A plethora of food samplings paraded in front of us from salsa to refrigerator pickles to dilly beans. As one of the brave I can say everything was delicious.
Laudate 2021, you were worth the time and effort it took to make everything happen. We will all miss singing together. In fact, we will miss being together.
But the good news is that this does not end.
We all have communities that we are returning to - and what is an experience like this if we can’t contribute more fully there?
We’ll return and continue singing with the people around us. We’ll work to harmonize voices - and beyond that, to harmonize hearts.
As we are instructed, we will “Praise the Lord all our lives; we will sing praise to God as long as we live.”
- Jordan Lehman