What Church Leaders Can Learn from an Opera Star

I saw soprano Renee Fleming perform with the Oregon Symphony last night. I’ve wanted to see her for a long time. Her book, The Inner Voice, was an inspiration to me as an amateur singer.

In addition to the delights of her voice, I was struck by Fleming’s commitment to learning, something that can encourage us as church leaders. One of her encores was a brand-new song based on the Declaration of Independence. And she sang three pop songs from a new album. She described herself as a “vocaphile,” loving the best singers from all genres. She had to learn to sing in a different way to sing these songs. She’s not going to compete with rock artists, of course – although her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was unexpectedly touching. But she had the courage to put herself out there in a new way.

Church leaders can find it hard to experiment with new ways of worshiping and preaching, or even to appreciate what others are doing. The world of classical music, like traditional church, is struggling to find its way in this new world. Experiments in new ways of doing music, like church, aren’t always successful – but we are called to take some chances. We can create new relationships — and even have some fun while we’re doing it.

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