One of the privileges of living in Cambridge, England, is King’s College and its chapel. You may have heard about the choir that performs there throughout the academic year, particularly at Christmas and Even Song service on Sundays?
Recently we went to this Even Song service and enjoyed the power this opportunity for contemplation offered. I went along without the expectation of following the service, but rather to experience the sound of the choir. My experience with energy has shown me that part of the reason hymns, psalms and services are sung in the manner that they are, is because the energy of the sound takes you beyond the surface level thinking of the conscious mind and deeper into the calm pool of the subconscious, towards a meditative state. You have to let the sounds wash over you and you feel the calmness take over as the service progresses. This service did not disappoint. The voices and the acoustics worked their magic beautifully. I had to stop myself listening to the words so that I could be affected by the primal power of vibration and rhythm.
For me it was a struggle as my conscious mind latched on to words it recognised. I had to remind my self to let go of the meaning and feel the experience of the sound on my soul. It was beautiful. Towards the end of the service I did listen to the words and they were so much more beautiful when heard from this place of calm and serenity. Couple this feeling with the visual experience of the vaulted ceilings and stained- glass windows and the ethereal became real.
The combined affect was to calm the anxious soul and to remind me that there is a peace and tranquility that lies beneath the turmoil of surface level existence, if only I’d give myself the chance. This Sunday service was my chance. I believe all services, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan or whatever are a chance to reconnect to the Source of our Being. Call that Source God, Spirit, energy or whatever, the reconnection boosts your strength and resolve to do good, be good and have trust and faith. I believe yoga, martial arts, meditation, fasting, dancing, chanting or drumming for spiritual rituals strive for the same reconnection to the Source which is the essence of spiritual practice.
At last, I felt the connection between religion and spirituality. Religion I saw in the service, the vestments, the buildings and the prayers. Spirituality I experienced in the words, cadences, rhythms and sounds of all that religious metaphor. It was transporting. And where did it take me? To myself and to the Source. Perhaps that is the point of religion? Perhaps I should have learned that at Sunday school?
If you would like to attend choral evensong, here is an article by Rupert Sheldrake who was involved in the creation of a website called Choral Evensong allowing you to find church services with free choral music across the British Isles.