Two months ago, when I arrived at Duke for the first time as a student for First-Year Orientation, the concept of a “Christian a cappella group” on a college campus was unfamiliar to me. I lacked imagination — in my mind, generic college a cappella groups were composed of friends who sang songs sometimes. Sure, each group might perform different music and have different people, but their purpose — to sing— was the same. But Something Borrowed Something Blue called itself a “Christian a cappella” group, and its purpose was not just music but also ministry, a dimension that I did not expect to see.
It wasn’t that I had never heard singing in a Christian context before — the opposite, really. While growing up in Dallas, I learned to sing at church, where every Sunday morning would begin with hymns. When I was a child, I didn’t have the comprehension skills to really understand Bible verses or much of anything else at church, but I could remember every song. The melodies and rhythms helped give me my first glance into the wonder and richness of faith. When reading words off a page became dry, music allowed me to reflect on and feel the passion of each musical phrase I sang.
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts,
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way,
Lead me in the way,
Lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139)
Really, the Psalms were meant to be sung aloud.
Music helped me through difficult times as well. Throughout high school, as my friends and classmates and I battled through adolescence and the demands of school, hymns remained for many of us — even for some who were not Christian — a source of joy and hope in times of stress.
There may be days of darkness and distress,
When sin has power to tempt, and care to press,
Yet in the darkest day I will not fear,
For, mid the shadows, Thou will still be near.
I think the power of music lies in its universality. Music can be shared and enjoyed by anyone, even those separated by oceans, languages, and cultures. It so intensely resonates with hearts and souls in a way that few other things in the physical world can. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised by SBSB’s “Christian a cappella” description. A cappella, literally “in chapel style," can touch anyone with ears to hear. It is a potent vehicle to communicate the Gospel because it evokes a desire in us so fundamentally human — a desire for beauty and for joy — that is fulfilled in the love and hope of faith and God.
SBSB’s vision — to share our songs and the love of Christ with the Duke and Durham community at large — provides a daunting challenge. But we can carry it out if we, with the help of a bit of grace, effectively bear witness to the beauty and wonder of music. After our Parents’ Weekend concert in October, a friend who saw the show approached me. He told me that, though he was not Christian, our testimonies and songs — in particular, “Brother” and “I Need Thee” — moved him to think about his family and to call and have a long conversation with his parents and siblings. I was touched by what he said and was thankful that SBSB was able to bring others joy even beyond the simple joy of listening to music. As the semester winds to a close, I am excited for SBSB’s future and hopeful that we can grow closer to each other, to the community around us, and to God.