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When You Can’t Sing

Nov 05, 2017

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America

It was October 15, 2017.   I didn’t want to be in church, and I didn’t want to worship.  Three days before, Julie Thomas, my friend and beloved partner in ministry had died. Even though we all knew that her health challenges were significant, her sudden death shocked us to the core.  We in the PCA family did our best to support Julie’s husband and son, even as we held on tightly to one another in our own grief.

 Yet, on that Sunday, I didn’t want to worship.  Even though I don’t believe that it was God’s will that Julie die, so that some higher, holy purpose could be accomplished, I still confess to being mad at God for not interceding – for not pulling a miracle out of some holy stash.  

On that Sunday morning, like every Sunday morning we are in town, Jack and I went to our church – St. Mark’s Lutheran.  We greeted friends and we sat in our “usual spot.”  As the service began, I fought back tears of anger and frustration – and I did not sing.  I would not – not that day - lift my voice in praise.

The songs were among my favorites: liturgy from the Chicago Folk Service, and then, “Let us go now to the banquet, to the feast of the universe…,” followed by “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…This is my story, this is my song…”  All around me the people I so love in my congregation were singing.  When my own voice could not or would not sing, they were singing, until by the end of the service I could do little else but join, “Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing power and majesty, praise to the King…Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.”

 I was reminded that no matter what spiritual tantrums may come my way, I am never alone.  God is there, and that Holy Presence is evident through community – through congregation.  And so it was, on a special Sunday morning, that I was reminded that the ministry of PCA that Julie so loved is all about creating communities in prisons where God’s children can experience that same sense of worth and belonging.  It kind of makes me want to hum a little tune.



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Category: grace