Saturday, March 21, 2009

Healing music

This Sunday, we'll be having our afternoon Service of Healing. Coincidentally, this month's American Organist magazine included the following facts from recently published scientific studies in its letter from the president:

"Singing in a choir can rase the level of the disease-fighting protein immunoglobulin A in 240%."

"Choral singing may reduce stress, improve mood, and increase lung function."

"Listening to 30 minutes of claming music is equal to the effect of a dose of a prescription tranquilizer." (That isn't to say that organ music should put you to sleep!)

Those are just some of the physical effects of singing and listening to music - things we do every Sunday. That doesn't even consider the psychological benefits.

I'll close with a bit of text from ELW 610 "O Christ, the Healer, We Have Come." I think the hymn captures the spirit of the healing service: we ask not just for relief from our own physical suffering but for strength and faith and wholeness for our community and the world.

Grant we all, made one in faith,
In your community may find
The wholeness that, enriching us,
Shall reach the whole of humankind.


  1. Thanks for this post!

    A few years ago I was hospitalized for what was diagnosed as clinical depression and anxiety. The first night I was so afraid, I could not sleep at all, just staring out the window, waiting for the sun to rise. The following night, searching for some comfort, I started reading through the Psalms. I arrived at Psalm 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and began singing the hymn "Christ is Risen" over and over for about an hour, felt peace, and finally fell asleep.
    All I had was my voice at night-- no instruments, no friends, no family; yet when I sang with the Lord, I could think no evil.
    I felt fear subside, and I was actually able to connect with the other patients. I conversed with felons and drug addicts, I ate my meals with people who spoke with imaginary friends; I finished puzzles with those I would never dream cross paths. But we all came to care for each other, help each other, and, yes, even sing together, no matter how grossly out of tune the piano.

    Several days later on Easter Monday, the sun rose, and they let me go home.
    Let us never stop from singing.

  2. Thank you for sharing that story. Scientists and psychiatrists just seem to keep finding evidence for what musicians and lovers of music have long known about the healing and inspiring power of music.

  3. One of the saddest things we have lost in this age of easily obtainable professional music is the joy of singing or playing it ourselves. Too many of us are afraid that someone will criticize our efforts, and so we remain silent or sing very softly. While listening to the "pros" is certainly enjoyable at times, I find the most pleasure in playing music myself, errors and all. I encourage everyone to try one song a day, either singing or playing on their favorite instrument. You'll be amazed at how fast you can build up a "repertoire."

  4. Tom said...."Listening to 30 minutes of claming music is equal to the effect of a dose of a prescription tranquilizer." (That isn't to say that organ music should put you to sleep!)"

    This reminds me of my son Joe, who as an infant and toddler, would fall asleep in church as soon as the organ began to play. It didn't matter the time -8:30 or 11:00a.m. service, or Christmas Eve. Jeff and I had to take turns going to communion. I would go while Jeff stayed near to make sure Joey didn't roll off the pew. When Jeff returned, I would go and Jeff would watch over him. Members used to pass our pew on their way to the communion rail and look down and smile at our sleeping baby.

    Three and a half years ago, Joe lay in a semi-comatose state at Metro hospital after his accident. A technician remaked how amazing it was that Joe had been tapping his foot to the beat of the CAT Scan. We set up a portable CD player and headphones so that he could listen to his favorite songs.

    Music puts us to sleep, wakes us up, speaks to us, helps us worship. It lets me find my husband in any store when I lose him. I just stay still and listen for his whistling or singing. My mother's own singing in the grocery store used to embarrass the heck out of me! It eventually became a very relaxing, comforting habit of mine as well, but my daughter, Natalie, has always been mature enough to just let me sing. She accepted it as who I am, wierd or not!

    Thanks for the beautiful music at the Healing Service last Sunday!