"Grant that what we sing with our lips, we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts, we may show forth in our lives." These words from the Royal School of Church Music Choristers’ Prayer, which the Parish Choir prays together every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, serve to sanctify the hours of rehearsal, when we are often focused on technical concerns such as dynamics, tuning, and correct vowel sounds, as a time when the Holy Spirit is invited to change our hearts through the hymns and anthems we sing. It is a prayer rooted in the concept that praying shapes believing, a part of the Anglican tradition from its earliest inception.
Often a hymn or anthem we sing in church gets stuck in my head, and I have learned to view this occurrence as an answer to the Choristers’ Prayer and embrace these "earworms" as an invitation to engage prayerfully with their texts. A recent example was when Mother Hester chose "Draw us in the Spirit’s Tether" as the offertory anthem for her ordination to the priesthood. In the days leading up to that service, the lush melody kept swirling around in my mind and became my prayer for her ministry and for our church.
"Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts…" are wonderful words to pray every week because they leave room for questions and doubt. The choristers’ prayer does not say, "I believe in you, so I am singing." It says, "I want to believe in you, so I am singing." It is an expression of the faith that even when the presence of God is obscured, if we begin to praise God, our faith will be renewed and sustained, and we will slowly become more like Christ.
Marlayna Maynard is a staff singer at Church of the Holy Communion, where she is regularly heard with the Parish Choir and Motet Choir and as a cantor. She moved to Memphis in 2013 to begin work on a doctor of musical arts degree at the University of Memphis, and moved her church membership to Holy Communion in 2014. Marlayna holds degrees from Bowling Green State University (M.M., performance) and Marshall University (B.A., music education). Her recent opera roles have included the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and Rose in At the Statue of Venus. She has enjoyed adjunct faculty appointments at Marshall University, Morehead State University and Bowling Green State University and currently teaches voice at the University of Memphis as a graduate assistant.