On our first practice, we gathered with enthusiasm and eagerness but not really sure what would happen in the course of our journey. We met our instructor and got our first introduction to the drums. He began the first lesson showing us three different ways to hit the drum to produce different sounds. Apparently there are a total of five, but he has yet to show us the other two. At first, mine all sounded the same. But over the weeks, we each began to gain an ear and hone our own technique.
Our choice of drums was intentional. First of all we wanted a group with an activity and a purpose. If we simply brought people together to talk about diversity, there would not be nearly the same enthusiasm. Plus we wanted something we could experience and share with the larger congregation. A prayer group would have been transformational, but not as easy to share with the larger congregation. Music is one of the primary ways humans worship. There is a profound connection through the ages of music and spiritual connection. We wanted to tap into that connection with God and with one another.
Over the weeks, we learned basic drumming technique and rhythms, then later we began to practice the specific pieces to play in worship. Our practices always opened with a time of sharing in which we each answered a question I posed about our upbringing, identity or background. This time gave us the opportunity to talk about who we are in a three-dimensional way, not just ethnic or cultural identity but family and Christian identity among others. Over the following weeks we told stories about our names, shared about a time we had felt uncomfortable or left out, talked about foods that made us feel at home or how it first felt to come to Westminster. As intended, this time of sharing brought us together and gave us a deeper understanding of each other than if we had only focused on drumming alone.
Our drum circle continues to grow, as we play in worship and at other church and community events. We even reached out to children at Ezra Prentice Homes to give them an opportunity to drum and teach us about who they are. Our drumming is just one part of a larger picture of transformation God is up to in out midst, bringing us together and taking away everything that would hold us back.
Pastor Frances Wattman Rosenau is Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY. In May 2016, she will graduate with a Doctor of Ministry Degree from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in Congregational and Community Renewal with a focus on Multicultural ministry. When she’s not at church, you will find her training for a race, reading about bulldozers with her boys, or searching for her husband in a used bookstore.