One of my favorite hymns is “We Are Many Parts” written by Marty Haugen, which is based upon the New Testament reading for this week, 1 Cor 12:12-30. There it states that all parts of the body are important and have a role to play. As I read the passage from Nehemiah, what struck me were the words, “all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.” And then, in the Gospel of Luke, the words. “He stood up to read … and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.”
In all three readings we are made aware that our physical senses, combined with our emotional reactions, are important components of our faith, and helps us to know and understand the word.
There are times when I find myself distracted and not listening as astutely to the words proclaimed every Sunday. I then re-read the passages when I get home, especially if Father’s homily was relevant to one or reading.
But are there other distractions that come into play? Sometimes the inability to hear may be due the reader. Maybe their voice doesn’t project very well, or maybe the sound system is not adequate to carry the sound to all areas of the church. And if I, who have good hearing, cannot make it out, what about those who are hearing-impaired and whose hearing aids do not function well in large spaces? How can we weep at hearing the word; or stare intently as it is being read, if we have trouble hearing it all? So how do we, as a parish, address this situation?
First, make sure the talents of those wanting to volunteer match the volunteer opportunity they are seeking. Not always an easy task, but an important one. Secondly, determine the veracity of the acoustics and mechanical systems of your church. Nothing is more disconcerting than to have a sound system that both detracts from and distorts what one is hearing. Perhaps an investment in a hearing loop system for the hearing-impaired is another consideration.
Many things contribute to our ability to participate fully, whether it is attention to our physical well-being or the well-being of the facility in which we gather each week. We are all parts of the one body of Christ, so let us make sure that resources are utilized to make the word available to everyone. Let us all worship in a way that allows our bodies and minds to react, whether in weeping or in awe.
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.