When we sing together as a church, we are not just aligning ourselves with each other, or with the created order as a whole. We are aligning it with the One who sings loud songs of exultation over his children, and who finished the Last Supper by singing a hymn with his friends.
Singing unites body and soul.
“My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed” (Ps. 71:23). It is wonderful to “make melody in your hearts,” rejoicing before the Lord in our innermost being, but singing aligns the body—the tongue, the throat, the chest, the diaphragm, the breath in the lungs, and the vibrations in the thorax—with the rejoicing in the soul, and by doing so reinforces it. By making a decision to sing with our bodies, we can lift our spirits and increase our joy (in part because God, by his grace, has created human beings to release endorphins and oxytocin when we sing). Body and soul are brought together as we praise: “my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Ps. 84:2).
Here are four ways singing unites.
1. Singing unites individuals with other believers.
Jennie Pollock made this point last month: songs unite us to one another, whether we are in church or at a football match, and reach the parts that other beers do not reach. Psychologists could talk for hours about how songs function as a “hive switch,” turning us from self-absorbed individuals into a self-denying collective. But it is obvious from the way music works: if multiple people talk at once, the meaning of each individual is lost, whereas if multiple people sing at once (and especially when they sing in harmony) the meaning of each individual line is heightened and strengthened by being united with others. It is a glorious picture of what the church is intended to be, and especially so when we remember that if we sing from (say) the Psalter, we are united with the dead as well as the living.
2. Singing unites humans with other living creatures.
The first noise you heard when you woke up this morning, if it wasn’t a vehicle or a small child, was probably the dawn chorus. Creation sings. It always has.