The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
On a snowy December evening, members and friends of Lakeview Lutheran Church in Maplewood gathered for a Christmas Sing-Along Concert. Despite the wintery weather, many managed to gather at the church to sing secular and sacred Christmas music to brighten our spirits during this extended COVID season that we find ourselves within.
Lakeview’s Community Builders Team applied for a Mental Health Grant with the idea of engaging a music therapist to meet with individuals for therapeutic music sessions. The initial idea didn’t quite catch on, but Brianna Larsen, the music therapist who worked with the congregation, suggested expanding the sessions to a wider audience to allow a larger group of people to gather and sing together, creating connection and community through music.
Susan Buesing, a Lakeview member who wrote the proposal for the therapeutic music grant, said, “The intention of providing individual therapeutic music sessions for our congregational members via a mental health grant may have been overly ambitious during a time of such COVID uncertainty.” She went on to state that “reformulating our methodology allowed us to offer greater community, connection, and positivity. The evening satisfied our goals and left us feeling more hopeful by transcending us away from some of our worries and concerns, at least for an evening.”
The hour-long Christmas Sing-Along Concert featured a wide variety of music, covering classic Christmas songs like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” along with favorite Christmas hymns such as “Go Tell It On the Mountain” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Participants were encouraged to use bells to add to the music which was led on organ, piano, and guitar. After the concert, participants spent time socializing with enjoying Christmas cookies, hot cocoa and coffee.
The Community Builders team focused on music as a medium to assist with lifting spirits during these challenging days. Music has been shown to reduce blood pressure, leaving individuals more relaxed and comfortable while providing serotonin to boost mood. The Sing-Along Concert focused on making music interactive and engaging to help participants to connect with one another. Music is both a social exercise and one that increases mood as well as alleviating anxiety, stress and depression.
“Despite the wintery weather, I believe the participants at the Christmas Sing-Along Concert had a lot of fun,” said Pastor Rebecca Sullivan. “Everyone seemed to enjoy the singing and the fun of using bells to familiar songs. I am hoping that this can become an annual tradition at Lakeview and that we continue to grow our love of music at Christmas.”
Member Joyce Smith attended the Christmas Sing-Along Concert and brought along two friends from her building. She said, “I loved it. I hope we can do it again. It was very enjoyable and the ladies I brought along enjoyed it too.”
Lakeview’s Christmas Sing-Along Concert focused on creating connection and lifting spirits during the busy December months in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the concert, we took precautions such as asking unvaccinated individuals to wear masks, distancing through the church sanctuary and providing good ventilation.
Lakeview's Community Builders were able to use the grant funding from the Saint Paul Area Synod to compensate two musicians, song leader and accompanist, along with providing funds for the post-concert reception. We also had the opportunity to see how music lifted our spirits and provided an essential space for individuals of a variety of generations to gather and connect around song. We hope to continue exploring ways to engage in music beyond our worship services and allow for lifting of spirits and connection.
Pastor Rebecca Sullivan