How Sweet the Sound

I recently attended the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN. It was a great weekend, filled with celebratory events, master classes, and many fun and talented people. One of the most moving events I attended was the Sunday morning singing. I admit that I was hesitant to go. A non church-going PK (preacher’s kid) such as myself is often cynical of any type of service occurring on a Sunday morning (and believe me, I could have caught up on some needed sleep). But my lovely roommates gave me some positive peer pressure – It’s the best of what we loved of church (said one, also a PK). So I went. And I’m glad I did. We sang two of my favorite hymns – Amazing Grace and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Singing is not only soul-moving, it is an act of being vulnerable: opening up one’s vocal chords and being brave enough to let the sounds (mine often far from perfect) come out, all in celebration of being present. A homily was given that included a poem, a short piece of drama, and my favorite piece– a section from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

As I reflect on last Sunday’s singing, I realize the reason it was so moving was that it honored my past (music, speaking, community on Sunday morning) but updated in such a way that I found it much more in tune with my own needs. In short, form and content came together in superb fashion. I’ve always turned to nature for solace; it is my sanctuary, for as Emerson said, In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity…, which nature cannot repair. So the reading of Dillard’s piece, which specifically examined parts of the natural world with a deep sense of reverence and awe, was perfect. Seated around me were people who had a shared sense of values – not just of Appalachia and nature in general, but of the written word and the sharing of such. I couldn’t have asked for a better service.

3 thoughts on “How Sweet the Sound

  1. grreat! words can’t describe our Sunday morning close in the acoustically perfect chapel during vocal week in August every year at augusta heritage foundations programs for the summer in Elkins, wva. there are no words.


  2. Rose, this sounds like a moving experience for you. I’d like to experience such a moment as that one day. I have fond memories of growing up going to church and singing the old hymns.
    My father, like you, found his spiritual needs met in the world around him. He used to walk over his farm on Sunday morning when others were in church. He said he felt closer to God there than he did in any church building.


  3. “In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity…, which nature cannot repair.”As a PK who has only attended official churches for weddings and funerals in my adult life this struck a chord.Amazing Grace,yeah,that’s hard to be cynical of-worship(whatever that is exactly)still happens most Sunday mornings somewhere for me.


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