What, then, shall we say?

My husband has been taking guitar lessons for over a year.

I am very impressed with his dedication to learning something new as an adult. As part of his training, he is doing some music theory work, including understanding and memorizing the circle of fifths. My background in music means I ought to be helpful to him in this learning process, but it’s just not the case.

Although I know the circle of fifths and I’m a reasonably patient person, I have a hard time explaining it to him without using other musical terminology that merely brings more confusion and frustration. This experience has been a good exercise for me. It’s tough to explain a language you already speak, unless you’ve spent significant time reflecting on things you now assume to be obvious.

Recently, I attended a worship service in another tradition where the entire worship service was led by the pastor. His was the only voice we heard as we prayed, sang, heard Scripture, and listened to the sermon. Even the distribution of Holy Communion was marked by one voice, as the pastor was wearing a microphone and the lay servers were not. In a subsequent conversation with a friend who is not connected to the church, I mentioned this experience and said that I was struck by the absence of multiple voices in worship leadership. My friend replied, “I can see that was different for you. But does it really matter?” “Yes!” I exclaimed, but as I struggled to explain myself, I had a flashback to the circle of fifths. Why, exactly, was this important? And how could I communicate that to this person?

The concept of voice is an important thread in Biblical Studies, especially in Feminist, Womanist, and Mujerista Biblical interpretation. It is nothing new, and nothing I didn’t learn about in seminary. In addition, my worship courses emphasized both the practical and theological rationale for embodying God’s Word and our praise with many different octaves, nuances, and accents.

But it’s not always enough to know. Sometimes we have to be able to explain it to someone who doesn’t know the drill, and we can’t rely on our own insider language to make the point. It’s difficult work, but it’s the least we can do for those who are interested enough to ask.