Music, Ministry & Spirit

Video by Rev. William Sewall & Rev. Jan Thomas

“Music seems to be
the bridge over the gulf
between form and the formless.”
—Hazrat Inayat Khan

Jan’s Note: Recently I facilitated a​ Sacred Song Circle​ with ​folks from the CHI community, which CHI alum Rev. ​Bill Sewall​ filmed. Afterwards he asked​ me to do a follow-up interview. From there we ended up collaborating to make Music, Ministry, and Spirit, a video about bedside singing and ministry.

“Every song that a human sings with his or her voice
is only an expression of that one Great Song
that is there from the beginning
and will be there after the end.”
—Brother David Steindl-Rast

Singing can be a powerful way to make contact with someone who is nearing the end of life when other paths for connecting have eroded. Preparing to sing at the bedside happens on two tracks. The musical part involves selecting from a repertoire of bedside-friendly songs, then practicing singing these softly, either as a single singer or in small groups of two to three. The other part is about sorting out our own feelings and issues about death, so that when we are at a bedside we can be fully present without being uncentered and reeling with emotions.

“Our light is a voice;
with our song we make a road,
a road for the spirit to cross over.”
—A Passamaqoddy song

Resources for Soulful Singing at the Bedside

1. – A growing network of over 200 bedside singing choirs.

2.   Rise Up Singing! – The classic songbook for community singing, with lyrics to over 1,200 songs by category.

3. – ​I’ve made a collection of ​​listening links for some of my favorite sacred songs.

4. – Dedicated to getting personalized music selections on iPods to nursing home residents to raise their quality of life.

5.   Alive Inside!– Watch the trailer, or better yet, watch this not-to-be-missed documentary about the power of music to awaken and engage after other communication pathways have eroded.

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