April 8, 2016

Singing Our Song

Singers and ukulele players lead St. Mary's song.Every Sunday at St. Mary’s, at all our services that include music, we sing the same song. I hear that the associate rector even makes the 7:30am service sing it on occasion, and they never sing. We picked it up in Hawaii a few years ago, at a meeting of the Japanese Convocation of Episcopal Asiamerican Ministries -- in church lingo, EAM JCon.

We sing the song as part of the blessing at the end of the service. It goes like this:

Ki-ri-su-to no he-i-wa ga
Wa-ta-shi-ta-chi no ko-ko-ro no
Su-mi-zu-mi-i-ni ma-a-de
Yu-ki-wa-ta-ri-ma-su yo u-ni
May the peace of Christ be with you.
May the love of God dwell deep in your heart.
May the Spirit enlighten your way.
May you walk in the comfort of God’s care.
La paz de Cristo sea contigo
Y el amor de Dios en tu corazón
Que el Espíritu te ilumine
Que camines cuidado por tu Dios

It starts in Japanese, the language of St. Mary’s founders. The second verse, as you probably guessed, is in English, the language of our current lifelong members. The third verse is in Spanish, our own translation into one of the languages of many of our newest members. When we gathered with our Korean neighbor congregations for an event highlighting reconciliation efforts between Anglicans in Japan and Korea, we added a verse in Korean. Efforts are currently underway to produce a verse in Zapotec, another language spoken by many of our newer members.

Most Sundays, the song is accompanied by a small and ever-changing choir of ukulele players from the congregation. It has become “our song.” I’m not totally sure how it happened. But anyone who comes to St. Mary’s at all regularly knows it. I hear teenage members of our Spanish service singing the Japanese with confidence. I hear people humming it at coffee hour. When St. Mary’s members are asked to sing something, as often happens at EAM gatherings, it is always the obvious choice. It works for Christmas and for Easter, even for Lent.

It’s simple and easy to sing, even a capella. It is sweet and beautiful and full of love. It expresses the best of who we are for one another and the best of what we wish and pray for one another. It tells the story of the best of St. Mary’s in the most faithful way -- a place where welcome and love have been translated through the generations to new communities. It honors our ancestors and welcomes current and future generations. It expresses St. Mary’s history and present as a home for those who have been told that this country and this city are not their home, a place of peace and safety for communities striving to add their love and creativity to the American and Episcopal mix.

It’s our song.

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