Singing and Community
by Eric Saumur
I've always been an atheist and, so when I was a teen and had to attend Chapel every morning at my Anglican high school, I refused to join in the singing of hymns. This was an "out-badge" which I displayed proudly, feeding my adolescent need for rebellion. But it clearly marked me as an outsider in that Christian context.
In my twenties, I married a Christian and, out of love for her, I have accompanied her to many churches over the years. I struggled to decide whether to sing or remain silent. After all, unlike morning Chapel, I was not forced to attend ; I could have told my wife to go without me. I have attended because I wanted to support my wife in her spiritual journey.
So the question was if I sing, saying the words that imply that I believe in God, am I a hypocrite? But, if I don't, am I being disrespectful of the people around me. I tried various intermediates like singing only the songs which contained no words with which I disagreed or singing only the parts of songs with which I agreed.
I have noticed that the most joyous and enjoyable services were those where the congregation sings loudly. So attending a service and failing to sing all the words of all the songs with gusto feels like it is stealing energy from the service. Even, if, as it is with me, you don't have a perfect control over your voice, it adds more energy and more joyfulness if you sing loudly enough to add to the overall sound.
So, I have chosen, despite my poorly trained voice and despite my disagreement with dogma, to always sing in any church I attend.