“Renewing our Faith” is the theme for March.  This week, I found myself wanting to answer Reverend Sophia’s challenge to answer the question posed to us in her homily on March 6th:  “What is Faith?  What do you have Faith in?”  I know that Faith means something different for each of us.  As for me, I have Faith in people, and I have Faith in the process that sustains me as a musician.

First, a definition:  I think of Faith as complete trust, a strongly held belief.  Faith is a foundation that is specific to our needs: it can support us when we are stressed, and it can also be what keeps us centered and happy on an everyday basis.  Faith is challenged when we are faced with loss, with trauma, fear, sadness and anger.  Faith brings us back to ourselves, gives us a future to believe in and a steady path toward where we want to be going.  It need not be concretely defined; it is enough that it provides the inner conviction that this particular direction is where we need to be going.

As I said at the beginning, I have Faith in the goodness of the people around me as exhibited by their behavior: kindness, generosity, empathy, humor, flexibility, genuine caring for each other, being a good listener.  I love being with others that are being their best selves.  It is easy to trust people whose  actions show values similar to mine.

But, Faith gets tested the most when we are different and we do not agree.  Sometimes it is difficult to see others’ inherent worth when, by their actions, they do not seem to be likeminded.  Engaging with others always involves listening a different way, compromising, negotiating a new way to interact.  It is exactly in this context that I/we rely on Faith.  We find a new way, probably one that neither of us envisioned, that may actually seem better and more satisfying.

So what does this have to do with being a musician?

For me, music is experienced in the context of other people, especially others with whom I make music.  In order to make music together, you have to trust each member of the group.  When I play chamber music, we are constantly going back and forth with differing ideas about how the music should go.  My faith in the process leads to the greatest fulfillment in performing the music.  In our choir, we trust our shared intent in working together to create something uniquely wonderful when we rehearse a piece to sing for a worship service.  With Faith in each other, our collective efforts are better than the sum of its parts.  Simply said: rehearsing is Faith in action.

Then there is having Faith in yourself.  Believing in oneself is trusting the choices you make for yourself from your “place of knowing”, which might be intuition.  It is trusting yourself.  Faith and trust in myself have defined my life as a musician.  My family was not musical, so it was an act of Faith for me to pursue doing music as my life’s passion and vocation.  Once I started believing that I could actually DO music, then playing the oboe made my life make sense in a way I cannot explain.  It is when I combine my own track as an instrumentalist with sharing music with others, that I find what I call Faith.  Whether or not we are perfect or not does not matter.  Faith is engendered in the act of making music together.  Faith is a process, not a destination.

This is what I call Faith. It is wrapped up in music for me personally, and in the music that I share with others.  I hope this makes you think about your Faith journey, which likely has nothing to do with music!  I would love to share a conversation with you about that.  What do you have Faith in?  How is your Faith grounding to you?  We walk and sing together this month as we Renew our Faith.

May it be so!

What to expect musically at First Parish in March?
March 13th—Special music for Offertory is Jean singing Everything Possible by Rev. Fred Small.
March 20th—the First Parish choir will sing the anthem, Deep Peace by Clif Hardin.
March 27th—We will have some music for oboe, viola and piano that we will play with Djalai.  

Charlyn Bethell
Music Director | + posts

Charlyn’s professional training has followed two paths: as a professional oboist and as a music teacher and conductor. As Music Director at First Parish, she joins these two paths of her musical life, conducting the choir, coordinating guest musicians, and performing on oboe.