Soli Deo Gloria By Rev. Sonny Walden

When I look back on the past 12 years at Dunwoody UMC I am overcome with gratitude. It fills me with appreciation and humility that I have been fortunate enough to serve this incredible congregation over these years. With the participation of hundreds of people, I have been able to be a part of making the best music of my life in praise of that which created all that is. For me, there is nothing that could be better.

For me, choirs are a perfect metaphor for the Christian community. They are made up of all kinds of people from the incredibly talented to those who, despite limited talents, give all they can to the greater good. The magic of making great choral music with volunteers is that everyone, regardless of skill, has a contribution to make. Those with the greatest voices often have to tame their talents somewhat in order not to stick out and damage the final offering. All of this to make a praise greater than any of us could do alone. The praise is greater and more stunning together.

The people of our choirs come together from all walks of life to work toward a single goal. They do not agree on everything. They do not all believe the same things. They are saints and sinners. They are radically different personalities, but they are unified by something bigger than the self. They come together in praise of the Creator. To get to be a part of that, to get to lead that, is a deeply holy honor.

There have been many highlights of working at DUMC. One of the greatest for me was working with Robert Edwards, the Atlanta Boy Choir and our Chancel Choir on the US premiere of Paul Mealor’s and Ben Kaye’s, “The Farthest Shore.” In a time where humans seem to be separating themselves into tribes of distrust, we were able to make art that spoke to the communality of the human condition, which showed the value of all humanity, even and particularly the feared other.

Another highlight has been the recent installation of our world class Quimby pipe organ. This is an instrument that will last long past our time and continue to draw people to this church to hear and participate in praise made possible by this instrument.

Still another is getting to write music for the choirs, singers and instrumentalists here at DUMC. It is a composer’s dream. Mary Ruth has been a particular gift in this area. I always have her look at what I am working on and ask her to, “make it better.” And she does. And there has never been one who works more diligently to bring life to these pieces—complain though she may about how difficult I have made some passages—she always perfects them.

Last Sunday as we were all participating in Communion, it suddenly struck me that this was the last time I would serve the body and blood of our Lord in this place and in this way. Tears came to my eyes. Serving Communion is the most sacred act I have ever participated in. You cannot offer the Christ to one you hate. The Christ, instead, heals petty injuries and turns them into expansive love. There is a miracle in the Eucharist that is not unlike the one experienced in choirs. Because we come together in something greater than ourselves, we are unified in our differences. We are made one in love.

So, in the end, the greatest highlight of having served at DUMC is the love that has been shared. I have been blessed and made better by your love. I hope that in some small way my presence here has done the same.

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” —from a sermon in “The Works of John Wesley”

Soli Deo Gloria,
Rev. Sonny Walden