One of the things that makes publications like the Rock & District News, one of our local monthly news magazines, so interesting is that we hear about what is going on in our local groups. We read news of the local WI groups, Clows Top Gardening Club, and the Far Forest Friendship Club, to name but a few. We might also learn about people's interests and hobbies through some of the other articles. I've been reflecting how one interest has shaped my life, but you might have a similar interest in your own life.
In my case it has been singing in choirs. I'm not a great singer, and I'm not much good at being a soloist. I'm just an average singer who enjoys singing in choirs. It is something I've done all of my adult life and it has enriched my life in so many ways.
The phone rang the other day and there was the voice of an old friend who used to ring me up so often in the late 1960s. That is when I began singing in the choir of our local church and my friend was the organist, often ringing up about rehearsals and forthcoming commitments. I had no religious faith then, and we had been to the church to visit it as my sister was planning to get married there. I had heard the choir and been taken by the sound. A friend from school was assistant organist and I was invited to try singing tenor. Little did I know how this interest would last so long - and that in 2013 some of the same people would be planning to join together to sing the services at Hereford Cathedral in August over 45 years later.
Singing has taken me to so many interesting places. In large choirs I have sung in Kings College, Cambridge, at the Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh under the baton of Benjamin Britten. Singing has taken me to the Albert Hall, Symphony Hall, Alexandra Palace and numerous cathedrals including Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. It has taken me to Vienna and Salzburg in Austria, and amazingly to India. I visited Calcutta, as it was then called, in the 1970s with the choirs of the cathedrals in Bristol. Our experience of meeting people there and visiting the homes run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity were to change our lives.
I've met so many interesting people through choirs. The most important person has been my wife, Lynne, for we met in a choir and still sing together in the Chamber Choir at Worcester Cathedral. I've met teachers, theologians, scientists, opera stars, security experts, funeral directors, professors, composers and equally fascinating people who do not have a high profile profession. Some have been people of faith but quite a number have been in a choir, even a church or cathedral one, not because of faith but because of the love of music. So it has been a good opportunity for me to meet people with quite different world views to my own.
Wherever I have lived and worked I have found people with whom to sing. If I have moved to a new place - there has always been a new group to meet and share with, including when we were in Tanzania. I know other people belong to societies such as the Rotary or Soroptimists and find the same - that wherever they go they can find colleagues there.
My love of singing has had a spiritual dimension. I was singing sacred music before my faith came alive, so that later when I was reading the Bible the settings of the texts in music came to mind. Some musical experiences have been deep spiritual ones too - and I have seen the impact of the power of music on myself and others. It is significant, I believe, that often in Christian worship there is singing. I believe that my faith in and experience of Jesus Christ has been deepened through the musical experiences I have encountered. Somehow the music works deep into our inner selves in a way that is unique.
What about you? You may belong to a local club or group, or you may belong to a national or international society. You my be interested in sport and support a team. You may love gardening, walking or cycling. Your main interest may be your own family - and this is what enriches your life. I invite you to reflect on what are the things in your life that enrich it and help inspire you and how these things have impacted on you over the years.