Monday, October 8, 2018

Ever Singing, March We Onward

"Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day!"

Today, in VA, a memorial service is being held for a dear friend, who invested so much into so many, a man with a passion for Christ and a passion for music - our former choir director.

Mr. Walter Pendleton was gentle and kind to everyone he spoke to, but he had a firmness that won respect, as well. Even now, 4 years later, I find myself hearing my head repeat, almost every Sunday, "Remember - we WILL be observing the commas. I know it doesn't sound like much, but if you will listen, you will see what a difference that makes in our singing." This is usually followed in my mind by a fellow choir member's question - "How are we going to pronounce this word so that we are all on the same page?" There are just certain things that you have to think about a little harder when you have varying degrees of southerners all singing the same song. (My favorite answer to that question was the time that we were told, "we will pronounce THIS 'the' as 'the', and THIS 'the' as 'thuh'" - in the same song).

When Tori and I joined the choir at Friendship, we were "bribed" by a couple of the members of our church - one of our friends even told us that she would join choir, at least when she could (she was also the fill-in pianist and frequently the page-turner), if it would get us there - which she did, helping us settle in, that first time. We were welcomed with open arms and hearts, and our first introduction to public singing could not have been more pleasant. We were about 30 years younger than the next youngest singer, and so we quickly became known to the choir members as "our two little girls", and it was truly a second home to me, with lots of adopted grandparents to look after us while we were so far from our family.

It wasn't long after we joined that Mr. Walter started facing terrible health issues, often being hospitalized for weeks at a time - but he always supervised us from his hospital bed, picking the songs to go with Pastor Todd's notes, asking how everyone was doing, coming right back to choir as soon as he would be discharged, always eager to lead worship to the Lord he loved. His dedication was astounding, and when he finally truly could not physically make it anymore, we were all saddened over the very big hole it left in our choir. But even at that point, he still took an interest in the church, encouraged us by making an effort to show up to any special service or music ministry, no matter how much help he needed. And frequently he would send word to Tori and I via Miss Mary Lou, our pianist - "Mr Walter asked me if our two little girls were still coming to choir, and I told him, yes. He wanted you to know he was thinking of you, he loves that some young people joined our choir."

He was compassionate, he was gentle, he was firm, he knew what he was doing, and knew how to impress on us that our work was not about our talent, but about serving our heavenly Father in one of the areas he had directly commanded in scripture. But he also knew how to remind us that we needed to do the best we could with our talents, because the One we were using them for was worthy of our best. He never did tell me whether I was alto or soprano... but it didn't matter. He taught me that music could be an act of service and an act of love, and that was enough.

We left VA about a year after he had to leave his position, and we haven't had much contact since then, but this last week, I got the news that Mr. Walter had moved on to a better choir - directly at the feet of our Savior, to worship Him forever. It wasn't unexpected, but it did take me aback a bit. I shed a few tears, because no matter the fact that, given the distance, we aren't directly touching each others lives now, the truth is, he will always touch mine, because of who he was and the example he set for all of us in his choir. He did not ask us to do anything that he was not willing to do himself, and he showed that over and over and over again. And while his time in my life was comparatively short in light of the many full years he lived, he made a wonderful impact on my life, one for which I am grateful. 

"Mortals, join the mighty chorus
which the morning stars began;
love divine is reigning o'er us,
binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life." 

P.S.... read this, too. Written by our Pastor in VA, this perfectly sums up Mr. Walter. Both of these men worked together so well to bring God's truth to our church, and it has blessed so many <3. 

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