Not Only is Another World Possible

“Not only is another world possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” 
Arundhati Roy

Eric Whitacre may not be known to you, but he is a household name in some music circles.  Whitacre is an innovative classical music composer and conductor who premiered his latest work on YouTube 11 days ago.  It’s called Virtual Choir 2.0.  It all began when a 17 year old girl posted a video of herself on YouTube singing the soprano part to Whitacre’s choral work “Sleep,” based on the poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri.  She said “Hi, Mr. Eric Whitacre, my name is Britlin Losee, and this is a video that I’d like to make for you.  Ever since I heard your song ‘Sleep,’ I have been addicted to your music.  Music is my life, it is my heart, it is everything.  And, um, you’ve touched me.”

Losee’s video gave Whitacre an idea.  What if he asked other people around the world to do the same thing: to download a piece of music and sing individually into a web cam while listening to the piece and watching him conduct.  Whitacre would then post their videos and cut them together to make a virtual choir.  Virtual Choir 1.0 consisted of 185 singers from 12 countries singing “Lux Arumque” and has been viewed almost 2 million times. 

The success of Virtual Choir 1.0 led to Virtual Choir 2.0, which debuted on April 7 with the world’s largest online choir of 2,052 people from 58 countries singing Whitacre’s, “Sleep.”  Again, each singer recorded one of the 8 parts on a web cam, and, through the magic of technology, the voices were joined together to make a whole.  226,000 people listened to Virtual Choir 2.0 in its first week. 

Music has always touched my heart in ways that no other medium can.  I was not prepared, however, for my intense emotional reaction to Virtual Choir 2.0.  Listening to and watching pictures of these passionate singers around the globe, most of them young people, left my heart strangely warmed.  I thought to myself, “How I would have loved to have been a part of that choir.  Imagine the beauty of becoming one with 2,052 people in the far corners of the world.”  Actually, there were more than 2,052 because I have no doubt that Jesus and the saints in heaven were also singing.  I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch “Sleep”: http://ericwhitacre.com/the-virtual-choir.

Not only is another world possible, she is already here.  Can you hear her singing? Through technology we can connect with people thousands of miles away as if they were in our own backyard.  Last month the elementary children at First UMC, Grand Rapids, talked with children at the Fairfield Orphanage of the Old Mutare United Methodist Mission in Zimbabwe.  Rev. Kim DeLong, a deacon who is the Director of Christian Education at First UMC, was part of our Africa University Mission Team last November.  Kim took a special interest in the orphanage, 85% of whose children lost both parents to HIV-AIDS. 

While planning a Rotation Model Sunday School unit on the church in Zimbabwe, Kim decided to try something new – using Skype to hold a joint Sunday school class!  It was 9:30 a.m. in Michigan and 4:30 p.m. in Zimbabwe.  Because the Internet at the orphanage is unpredictable, Eric Mulanda, the student body president at nearby Africa University, took the children to an Internet café in the city of Mutare.  There children from 2 very different countries, who never dreamed of being able to communicate face to face via computer, sang to each other, talked about their countries, and became one body of Christ.   I can just imagine Jesus cheering them on, “Go for it, kids.  Share my love by any means you can!”  

Not only is another world possible, she is already here.  Can you watch her smiling and laughing?   On April 6 The United Methodist Church did something new.  We held a Leadership Summit webcast, where thousands of United Methodists, including 300 in Zimbabwe, gathered at 1,000 sites around the world to dialogue about God’s vision for The United Methodist Church.  Sitting in the Michigan Area office with the cabinet, connecting with denominational leaders in every corner of the globe and singing “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” left me speechless.  

Not only did we hear a report on the state of our church and consider a plan from the Call to Action Steering Team for moving forward, but we spent time in our own locations discussing common questions.  In the last of 3 hours, the panel attempted to answer some of the 513 questions sent in from around the world.  The most compelling phrase of the webcast came from Bishop Rosemary Wenner of Germany, “We are called to ‘expect’ and ‘expend’ the kingdom.”  (Check out http://www.umcleadershipsummit.org)

I can just imagine this online comment from Jesus, “You know, I’m a bit jealous.  When I lived there were no computers, Internet, or webcasts.  You can reach so many more people with the good news than I could have ever dreamed.  So go for it!  Not only is another world possible, it is already here.  Can you sense her yearning for connection?  Spread the gospel in any way you can.  And know that the Holy Spirit is right there with you.” 

Today, April 18, is the day that taxes are due in the United States.  Passover begins at sundown tonight.  It is Independence Day in Zimbabwe, and the Boston Marathon is this morning.  But another world is upon us right now.  For Christians it is Holy Week, which means that our journey to the cross is near its culmination.  The celebration of Palm Sunday seems like just a memory as Jesus teaches in the temple and engages the Jewish religious leaders, tension mounts, secret plans are made, and Jesus is arrested.  Within a span of 48 hours Jesus is crucified, dead, and buried and on the third day is raised from the dead, changing our world forever.

How will you and your church tell the story this week?  Believing Eric Whitacre’s conviction that “if you do your little part and have faith that you are part of a whole, then you’ll make beautiful music,” Virtual Choir 2.0, Sunday school children 8,000 miles apart, and United Methodist leaders around the globe are telling the story through technology.

There are countless ways to understand and connect with the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus and make it our story.  The multi-dimensional nature of Holy Week has a long and rich history.  Because we don’t all encounter God in the same way, art, music, drama, media, video, liturgy, preaching, the Internet, and even social networking each have a place in proclaiming the power of the cross as well as the empty tomb. 

In Matthew’s resurrection story, an angel says to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Come, see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’  This is my message for you.”  Matthew then says that the two Mary’s went with fear and great joy. 

How will you “go”?  How will you be a witness to the new life that God promises to each one of us?  Will you dare to connect with people in daring and creative ways, knowing that another world is already here?  In a National Public Radio interview 2 weeks ago, Eric Whitacre said of his Virtual Choir 2.0, “There’s this incredible leap of faith on the part of the singer where you’re just hoping, sort of, beyond hope, that somehow this works, right?  That you’ll do your little bit for this and then months later find out, ‘Oh, OK, I helped make this happen.’”  How will you take that leap of faith by sharing your witness and singing your little part in your little corner of the world so that people from Muskegon, USA, to Mutare, Zimbabwe, are transformed into the likeness of Christ?

O how I wish John Wesley were alive today.  No doubt he’d be one of the first to realize that another world is upon us.  He’d be a techno geek for sure.  Instead of riding his horse all over England, Wesley would be experimenting with the latest forms of technology in order to spread scriptural holiness around the world and build up the kingdom of God.  He’d do whatever it took to align himself with God’s work around the world.   

            Virtual John Wesley might even adjust one of his most famous quotes:

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, In all the places you can,
At all the times you can, To all the people you can,
With all the technology you can, In as many virtual settings as you can,
With as many creative connections you can, By expecting and expending all you can,
As long as ever you can.”

“Not only is another world possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Blessings,
Laurie

 

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