As I entered Cannon Chapel, I was greeted by noise. Several students were spread throughout the Brooks Commons foyer and up the staircase towards the Chapel. They were reading, praying, meditating in unison. I was surrounded by sound, but it was not the unpleasant sound of large crowds or chatty groups. It was the sound of God ushering his children to worship, leading them towards Himself with His words. I felt guided up the stairs, almost as if I was being moved forward by the nudge of scripture and praise.
The diversity of worship life at Candler allows for many different student groups and denominations to lead worship throughout the semester. This week, the Black Student Caucus led of large group of students, faculty, and staff in yet another unique style of worship to help celebrate Black History Month. Noise is of course a component of every worship experience in Cannon Chapel, but the noise this week had a certain power and force to it, as I noticed before I even entered the space of worship. The noise seemed to move. It moved in and out of mouths and ears, up and down walls and ceilings, over and around bodies and clasped hands. It not only moved throughout the space, but forced the space to move with it.
The service began with singing. An organ, a saxophone, a piano, a drum set accompanied rich, vibrant voices. There were not words to read from a hymnal or off a screen. The words of the song were on repeat, it seemed. Everyone joined in, participating in the repetition of noise. Some shouted the noise out of joy and happiness; others whispered it out of reverence and humility. Different tones, different inflections floated around the chapel, offering themselves up to God in their diversity. The variations of the noise became unified, for each distinct sounds moved in the same direction. Upward.
Singing rarely involves just the movement of the mouth. Arms, legs, and heads were moving, too, adding to the rhythm of the noise being created in the space. The whole chapel was noisy with movement, from the swaying of hips to the raising of hands. Bodies became instruments as they harmonized with the notes being played and sung. Every single body participated in the song as it reacted to the noise. Each person added their own personalized notes, creating a song that God had never heard before.
A time of prayer was sandwiched between the sounds of song. Individuals approached the middle of the chapel floor one by one, uttering words of both praise and sorrow. The Candler community gathered around these bodies and their noise as a petition to God, a petition to grow them closer and more unified. Working to tear down boundaries and to end habits of division were the words of these few, but the cry of all. The noise of both verbal and silent prayer rose, again, upward.
The loudest sound of the whole service was indeed the footsteps exiting the chapel – the sound of God’s noise moving out into the world.
Sara is a 2nd year MTS student from Greensboro, NC and a Student Ambassador.