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Lonesome Valley

114. Lonesome Valley

I love some moments of worship. When I was directing the children’s choir at New City United Methodist Church, the children learned “Lonesome Valley.” After they were pretty secure with it, I said that for the last verse I wanted them to walk around and space themselves around the sides of the sanctuary, so they were standing really alone. In that alone space they would sing together, “I must walk my lonesome valley, I have to walk it by myself, Oh, nobody else can walk it for me, I have to walk it by myself.”

Then I asked after everyone had sung that, if there was some child who would sing it alone. Three children raised their hands and so we established an order and each child sang it alone, with me playing softly at the front on the guitar.

At the next choir rehearsal, two more children asked if they could sing a solo too, and we created an order for five of them. And at the very last rehearsal, the one child who hadn’t volunteered said that she wanted to sing a solo too.

At the worship service they sang the beginning verses up at the front with me, and then they moved to the sides of the sanctuary as they sang another verse together. Then we came to the last verse and each child sang it alone. It was so quiet in the sanctuary. A few people had tears. It was such a moment of worship.

I believed that most of the adults in that service had had times when they felt totally alone. And the children had a glimpse of that as they sang totally alone.

Later in the coffee hour a woman approached me and said, “How did you make them sing those solos?” It was hard for her to believe that each young person volunteered.

And me? What did I learn? I learned that it’s important to give children choices where they know that whichever way they decide, it’s absolutely all right. I learned that somehow in learning the song, we all had caught the deep meaning of it by risking the aloneness. And I learned that children are brave.

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