The good news is that the family is on its road to recovery. We ventured out on Saturday night for at least part of the Christmas Dinner at church. Because E still had a fever, we skipped the dinner part of the festivity and only went for the entertainment part. I had been responsible for helping to get the Logos kids ready for singing Silent Night. And D performed a reprise of Who's On First with our pastor, G. (They had done the sketch once earlier in the Fall for Logos.). They did a fabulous job. I have a digital video of it and am waiting for "approval" from Google video to post it.
My dad called with the news about Uncle Bob about an hour before we had to leave for church yesterday morning. Of course, the news was heavy for me. As the worship leader, I was a bit distracted and made some mistakes here and there. When G realized I was struggling a bit, I could feel his support of me throughout the service. I don't know how to explain it, really. He just "checked in" several times with eye contact, making sure I knew what was next. I needed the extra support and appreciated it tremendously. Where I did make mistakes, I felt the space forgiving. When worship breaks: it's an article I need to write someday.
After the service, I had a conversation with one of the members of the congregation which has raised some questions for me. He is a man in his eighties, a former seminary professor. He approached me and said, "May I offer a suggestion?" When I told him he could, he said, "When you are speaking without the microphone, keep your regular tone. Do not raise your voice so that the tone and pitch of your voice go up, too. Just speak regularly."
"Okay," I responded a bit cautiously. "And why is that?"
"When you raise the tone of your voice, it enters into the upper registry. And for those of us who are older, we lose this range of a woman's voice first. When you are speaking in that range, it fuzzes out for me. I only catch half of what you're saying. And, I'm sure you've noticed, most of our congregation is in their sixties, seventies, and eighties."
I thanked him for his advice as I consciously disciplined myself to be truly open to it. I'm sure he sensed my struggle a bit, because he added, "I am telling you this because you will be in ministry for a long time." This felt like his way of affirming me, while also offering the critique.
I do not doubt that what he is saying is true. My mother and grandmother both are hearing impaired. They both needed hearing aids by the time they were forty or so. I also struggle with my hearing a bit and have always expected that I would follow in their footsteps, as I do in so many ways.
Nonetheless, it is, in some ways, an especially difficult critique to receive precisely because the language of "a woman's voice" is so freighted. I can feel my tendency to turn it into a metaphor--women's voices cannot be heard in church. And yet, it may have absolutely nothing to do with that at all, you see?
It is also a challenging critique to receive because most often, when I am without a mic, it is because I am praying in a different part of the sanctuary than usual--for instance, the prayer of thanksgiving after receiving the offering. Therefore, the voice I am using is my praying voice. It is not an assumed voice, but the voice I have to lead us in prayer. Is one's voice separate from the prayer itself?
These are some of the questions that were raised for me yesterday. I'm really interested in anyone else's input about this in the comment section.