My information said that the meeting started at
two o’clock or so, but I didn’t have the chance to get there for a couple more hours. Besides, I wasn’t sure about it, so I wanted to arrive after they were well under way.
By the time
four o’clock rolled around, I was quite lost in the county roads trying to find the place: It was already dark, and I was looking for an old barn, maybe half a mile from the nearest paved road so finding it was no easy task. I backtracked, tried the turnoff that I’d passed by a couple of miles back, saw another truck pulling into a dirt road, and headed down the same way. The road ended at a place that was obviously not what I was looking for, but we turned off just before that, wound around some sharp corners, and emerged into a field full of parked cars surrounding a barn, looking in the dark like a flock of baby chicks around their mother hen. Out of the barn came the sound I was expecting, the sound I was looking for. When I heard it, I realized how much I’d been longing for it.
I parked my truck and walked through the parked vehicles towards the barn; I noticed some older SUVs, some fancy new cars; the variety caught my attention. There were a handful of other folks arriving, and we said very little as we approached the barn: words weren’t actually necessary. This was also the sound that they were looking for; their faces showed the same sense of expectation that I was feeling.
We slid the door open, and the sound washed over us. It was palpable, nearly physical, though it wasn’t all that loud. Inside were maybe a hundred people. Twenty or thirty of them were playing instruments, men and women, black, white and others, young and old. The instruments were equally diverse: guitars, keyboards, drums from
, from America Africa, from , from Ireland Asia, from places I'd never heard of. Even a didgeridoo from , wired into the sound system. There were young kids playing drums and rhythm instruments. Most of the sound came from the instruments and from the several people singing into microphones. There was a basic sound system set up, but it was obvious that this was no show. Australia
Nobody but the handful that entered with me even knew that we had arrived. Maybe twenty people had their hands in the air, others were kneeling, still more were dancing or waving flags. Some were visiting together near the tables in the back, tables piled high with food and drink. Kids played on the dirt floor. They took nothing away from the music.
I worked my way to the back of the room. I was trying not to disturb the worshippers, but I needn’t have bothered: most of them were oblivious of my passage; those that were greeted me with the great bear hugs of old friends or the whole-hearted hugs of family; it didn’t seem to matter if they knew me before that day or not. The diversity of people struck me again: these were people from almost every imaginable background, age, race, socio-economic group, religious persuasion.
The music never took a breath. There were a couple of microphones set up where anybody could walk right up and sing along with the music; those mics were nearly always busy, with intricate harmonies and counterpoints accentuating songs that nobody had ever heard before. Before I realized it, four or five hours had passed.
There were a hundred people there, and people were coming and going throughout the night. But the audience had only One. His presence filled the room like birdsong in the spring, like a welcome home after a long journey. There were a hundred voices singing a hundred different songs, all blended into one glorious chorus, and our Audience roared back His approval.
This was worth getting lost in the backwoods county roads for. This was worth being part of.