Our choir season started up not long ago, and I was glad. I missed my fellow altos over the summer, and I think we were all glad to see each other again and sing together again. Most of us have been singing together for years—I think I’ve sung with Lillian and Catherine for 15 years now. After all this time, we all know each others’ voices and each others’ strong points and our own weak spots—for example, I know Catherine has a strong low range, so I tune in on her when we get down around middle C and follow her. And Lillian has a beautiful high range, so I tune in on her when we go higher. (Me, I enunciate.)
So anyway, there we were just before the first rehearsal began, all sitting close together, sorting through our sheet music, chatting and smiling together, obviously all old pals. And a new alto came up the stairs to the choir room to join us. She’s a student at the college nearby, and I swear undergrads look more like junior high kids every year . . . but I digress. A new alto joined us.
I’d like to say that we welcomed her into our midst so warmly and hospitably that she immediately felt at home, but I have to admit we didn’t, not really. Oh, sure, we all shook hands and traded names, and showed her the rehearsal schedule and things like that, but we also let her take a seat at the end of the row, next to the basses. It’s hard to learn new music when you only hear one other voice in your part. If we’d been really welcoming, we would have rearranged ourselves so she could be in the middle, supported by other alto voices all around. But we didn’t. If I’d been really welcoming, I would have gotten up from my safe spot between Catherine and Lillian and sat by the basses myself. But I didn’t. I feel bad about that. I’ll do better at the next rehearsal.
For us, on the inside, we felt like community. To her, on the outside, did we feel like a clique?
When have you felt like an insider? When could you have been more welcoming? When have you felt like an outsider? How did that feel?
Audrey Novak Riley is director for stewardship for Women of the ELCA.
Women of the ELCA offers a free downloadable resource, “Hospitality: More than Warm and Friendly ,” that groups can use to explore this essential part of discipleship. The program takes about an hour.