I played in a handbell concert yesterday. My church, Cross of Christ, hosts the Emerald City Ringers, a really top-notch local handbell community choir. As “Artists in Residence” ECR has a special relationship with CofC, to the benefit of both the choir and the congregation.

One of the mutual benefits is our hosting a concert headlined by ECR, and featuring our own “in house” handbell choir, Carillon. That’s the group I ring with. I’m probably the weakest link in Carillon, but I think they have some sort of unwritten pastor mercy rule, so they let me ring in spite of my musical limitations. (No way I’m even close to good enough to ring with ECR!)

One of the things I enjoy about being a part of a handbell choir is the group aspect of it. A handbell choir is really one musical instrument, made up of many individual human part. Think of a piano keyboard. It takes all 88 keys to make one piano. If keys are missing, or malfunctioning, the instrument doesn’t play correctly, and music can’t be made.

Since my ringing skills are, umm, well, pretty limited would be a nice way of putting it, I only represent one or two “keys” for most pieces we play. And not middle C, either! My keys are often less central to the music, less critical, and thus less often played. But when my notes are needed, I’m there for the group (well, most of the time!).

In our culture so focused on the individual, being part of groups that depend on truly being and working together is a nice and needed counter to the “me-ism” messages we are bombarded with all the time. Handbell choirs are like that. And churches, too. At least they’re meant to be. Churches were not created to be gatherings of competing and parallel “ones” looking out for themselves first and foremost. Churches are always at their best when we behave as communities of faith, and not merely as gatherings of individuals.

Want to see me and my handbell choir in action from yesterday? Click on this link or see the video above.  I’m the pastor looking dude (standard issue gray panel shirt with matching gray goatee and buzz cut) in the back occasionally ringing some bass bells.