For the Glory of God

by Andrea Meier

The Choir of St. John the Divine is about to embark on their first-ever Cathedral Residency at Salisbury Cathedral in the UK. This group of adult and child choristers will be led by Director of Music Steve Newberry and Associate Director of Music Anna Teagarden. Also traveling with the group is Associate Director of Music John Meier, who will accompany many of the services along with Assisting Organist Ben Kerswell. The choir will follow the rhythm of a Cathedral choir-in-residence, singing evensong services during the week and choral Eucharist on Sunday. Additionally, they will sing choral Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for the Feast of Mary Magdalene.

While chorister Rebecca Terry is relatively new to St. John the Divine, she has participated in several residencies with other choirs. After growing up in a church that sang everything a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment), Rebecca describes her first experience singing at a cathedral residency as a spiritual awakening.

“I think for me, because I grew up in the Church of Christ without instrumental music and a very different faith, that it was hard to come to grips with changing my religion,” she recalls. “I found that change through music, initially singing in Houston with my church family. Then, when we went to my first cathedral residency at York Minster, I saw the connection and the history. I realized that it is not about the denomination, it’s about this bigger faith. We're all here to go to church, worship God, and think about Jesus. And when we sing, it's all for the glory of God. I felt every time I stepped into one of those cathedrals that I'm here to sing for the glory of God. I'm here to bring a piece of my church to this cathedral, and I'm here to take a little bit of this cathedral back to my home church.”

You come back as a stronger group that is stronger in faith and stronger in friendship

A large part of our choir’s cathedral residency will involve preparing and singing daily evensong services. To become familiar with the liturgy, the choir has offered monthly evensongs to our church throughout the past year. Reflecting on the power of evensong, Rebecca says, “My favorite part of evensong is singing the psalms. I never really experienced psalms growing up. Just listening to them spoken, they’re pretty but can be hard to understand. But there’s something about when you put a psalm to music, and it’s sung very well, you experience the power of the psalm and feel the worship within it. You understand the poetry of the psalm and the meaning behind it.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming residency, Rebecca notes the importance of involving our young choristers. “It is so important that we take the next generation with us because that’s how they learn about worship,” she says. “These children are a huge part of our church, and growing up within our traditions, singing our music will hopefully keep them in the church for the rest of their lives.”

Rebecca hopes this experience will build life-long relationships among the adult choristers. “I think this experience will grow the adult chorale together,” she says. “That’s what happens at a choral residency when you eat breakfast together every day, go to the cathedral and sing every day, then meet up at a pub or restaurant every night. You come back as a stronger group that is stronger in faith and stronger in friendship.”

We are grateful that our Adult Chorale and SJD Choristers will experience their first choral residency together from July 14 – 24. An Anglican Roots pilgrimage will run concurrently, led by our rector, the Rev. Dr. R. Leigh Spruill. Those pilgrims will have two opportunities to see our choristers lead worship during their time in the UK.

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