“In everything you do (…), keep in mind the miracle of the Chinese bamboo tree. After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except for a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. During those four years, all the growth is underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth. But then in the fifth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows up to 80 feet!”
A couple of years ago I had the idea to start an interfaith choir festival. Not to compete, not to out-proselytize one another – the plan was just to get together and enjoy each other’s music and company.
For the first concert, we welcomed the Chancel Choir from the Church of the Immaculate Conception (a Roman Catholic congregation) and the Garden State Sacred Harp Singers (a group specializing in shape-note singing). Although I had hoped for a larger turnout, it was a successful event that everyone present seemed to enjoy.
Last year we sent out invitations again, and we received no responses. The choir director of Immaculate Conception said he’d like to bring his group again but couldn’t get enough people together to make it to the festival. I got ready to cancel the event and bury the project for good. Then at the last minute, the conductor of the choir from Christ Church (our neighbors across the street) contacted me and said they wanted to participate. And so it was – again, a small but fun event that did what I had hoped it would: build bridges between strangers.
On February 28th we hosted the festival for the third time, and more than 120 singers from seven congregations (including our own) came. One of the visiting choir directors said to me in front of the audience, “We were not here the first two years… but you’re stuck with us now!” At the end of the concert, everyone sang the hymns “When In Our Music” and “Siyahamba” together. It was a joyful noise indeed.
We are frequently tempted to gauge the viability of a plan by its initial performance. After all, how good can it be if it doesn’t work right away? And yet, some things take time to develop before their true potential comes to fruition. Let’s keep this in mind as we explore uncharted territory on our journey together.