by Shanda Kish, Guest Columnist
Ever since I was young, my faith has played a major role in my life. Growing up in Oklahoma and living a block from our parish, I was easily immersed in all that the Church had to offer. From attending the local Catholic school, to vacation bible study over the summer, my faith foundation was strong. Every Sunday my family and I would go to mass and then go out to breakfast, but not before my siblings and I grabbed our weekly supply of donuts that the church left out after mass. As a kid, going to mass was a chore that needed to be completed in order to get our sweet sugary treat. Between the third and fourth grade my family and I moved from our flat little city in Oklahoma to our current home in Oregon.
This is the point in my life that I consider the start of my faith journey. After the move, we joined our current parish and we were quick to get involved. I served as an altar server during fourth and fifth grade but stopped at the start of middle school because of the opportunity to join the youth choir at mass. Every Sunday, I stood up among friends in the choir and sang out the church songs I loved; I learned some new ones along the way as well. The director welcomed me into the choir and helped me build on the voice that God gave me. Because of this, since the sixth grade, my faith has grown, been tested, and matured through the impact that music has had on my relationship with God.
My mom always told me that I was able to sing before I could talk. Music and singing has been a huge part of my life and became even more so when my voice found its purpose, praising God. I have always struggled to pray and I always heard that you should pray every night and morning, read the bible, pour out your feelings through your prayer and sit and listen for what God is trying to tell you. In high school, I started going to youth conferences where they would reiterate this over and over again, but I found it hard to do so. Something wasn’t connecting, almost as if the road to God had been blocked off by my insecurities with my prayers and worries that I wasn’t doing something right or saying the right things.
I let this cloud my faith and started to fall from God. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to deal with the next conference but decided to go. This was the first time I truly realized the power of praise and worship. The conferences were praise and worship based and we would spend hours just singing at the top of our lungs praising the lord and all his wonders. These hours of singing allowed me to open my heart to God in a way I couldn’t before. I started listening more to my praise and worship radio stations and started hearing him. I could finally hear Him in the songs I would listen to. If I was doubting myself or found myself struggling to find self-love, I’d listen to the radio and hear a song where I could feel God’s love for me pouring out through the lyrics of the song, like he’s telling me I’m beautiful and that he loves me. Praise and worship also allowed me to find the words I need to say. I could sing my heart out and not have to worry about anything, just staying focused on God and singing the lyrics while meaning them from the bottom of my heart. Whenever I need God in a situation or in the moment, I turn on the song “Lord I Need you” by Matt Maher, and let my mind turn to Him. St. Augustine said, “He who sings prays twice.” This was what I rooted my singing in. Once I let my voice sing to God and let it be used to share his voice, my love for mass has grown and I grew more connected to the music I sang there. Praise and worship has truly changed my relationship with God for the better while also connecting me with the people around me.
It is perceived that in order to participate in music ministry, you have to be in the choir, have a great voice, and play an instrument. But that’s not true. One of the biggest and easiest ways to get involved is by singing at mass. You don’t have to be up with the choir to be involved in music ministry. Singing from where you are sitting at mass is one way to start. But this doesn’t just stop at your parish. This can apply to your schools or even on your own in the car on your way to meet with friends. Being involved can be something as simple as turning your radio station to a praise and worship station, or jamming a song to God on an instrument you play. It can be something easy like playing a praise and worship song to start your day, or end it and reflect. “He who sings prays twice.”