Ok folks – bear with me here. I’ve just left a funeral and am about to get into the car to drive to a wedding in Cape Cod, but I just had to take a few moments to sit on the steps of Grace Church in Providence to tell you about the end of Music Camp and show you the video below.
We had an outstanding week at camp – full of joy and laughter, music and dancing, and friendship and love. I’ll be putting together another video in the next couple of days with clips from the week, and you’ll see for yourself how wonderful it was to be in the midst of such talented young people. But that’s not today’s post. Today’s post is about sharing with you one of the most incredible God moments I think I’ve ever been a part of. So here goes.
Despite the really wonderful week at camp that we had, we received some bad news this week. First we learned that Sarah Keogh, a former counselor at ECC, had died unexpectedly, leaving behind two young daughters. Her death was a shock to the community, and many of our visiting staff members and several of our campers knew Sarah and were deeply saddened to hear the news. Her mother called to ask us to be a part of the funeral and we started making arrangements to sing music from ECC while Father Hall was called in to preach. On the same day in the midst of making those preparations, we learned that one of our counselors had lost his grandfather – also unexpectedly. He stayed with us at camp for the week, but missed our big show at the end of the week to leave for the funeral. So, as is so often the case in life, while we danced and sang and laughed through our week, we were also aware that members of our community were grieving.
Part of our weekly program was chorus, which was being led by my sister Kate Kelly Longo. She had brought with her this really beautiful piece for us to learn. It was called “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson and had been written to remember those who had lost their homes and lives in the tsunami. The music was gorgeous and the words were haunting. “In the darkness of the soul fill our hearts and make us whole, O Mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace…” I’ll just say that once we learned it (in one day!) there were lots of lots of tears from those of us who just felt completely swept up in the beauty of the music and singing.
Once we heard about Sarah having died, one of our staff made the suggestion that perhaps we record ourselves singing the Requiem as a gift to Sarah’s family. It was a beautiful idea, and we started planning it immediately. At the same time, one of our campers (Sydney) wrote a poem dedicated to Sarah in our Creative Writing workshop, and her leader brought it to my attention. We decided to incorporate the poem, both in the video and into Music Camp madness.
When Friday night rolled around we celebrated in a big way with all our campers and counselors and visiting staff and guests. The place was packed with visitors, the energy high, the music floating through the air. We danced and cheered and applauded and it was absolutely glorious.
After the rest of the groups had gone we explained to our guests that we had experienced loss that week, and explained that what was to follow was in honor of those passed and their families. We invited our guests to come into the barn. The lights were off, and each camper and staff person held a candle in their hands. Sydney read her poem and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. When she finished the Requiem started, and the voices swelled, and I think it might have been the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. The spirit in that place was so tangible – I think we all felt it.
But that wasn’t actually the big incredible thing that happened. The big incredible thing happened later that night when the visiting staff and some of the permanent staff were gathered in the living room of the house sharing our daily highs and lows and talking about how great the evening had been. Someone said they wanted to see the video of the song that I had taken, and so – despite the fact that we were already fighting sleep – we took the necessary time to load it onto the computer and watch.
I think we got all swept up in the moment again watching the song. It is just so beautiful. But then while we were watching – we saw “it”. The music swelled, and the chorus sang “Mary fill our glass to overflowing…. illuminate the path where we are going.”
And – I’m not kidding you – when they sang the word illuminate… the choir started glowing.
You can see for yourself. It goes from dark to light, and only for the portion of that verse “Illuminate the path where we are going, have mercy on us all.” That’s it. And I promise you, there are no gimmicks here. There were not lights that we turned on for that line, no one was shining flashlights up at us during that part. It just happened. I can’t explain it. But I’ll tell you what – we all had goosebumps on our arms and tears in our eyes watching it. We watched it over and over, and there’s no denying it. “It” happened. Whatever “it” was.
I hope you’ll watch the whole video, but if you are short on time, start the video at 3:53 – the illumination starts at minute 4 and you’ll want the build up.
Like I said friends – God was present in the barn. Watch for yourself.