Music strengthens interfaith bonds in Provo

By on March 19, 2013.

Music is a common element of many worship services and is the reason some BYU music majors have chosen to work for other churches.

For instance, on Sunday, March 10, a BYU student and nationally known violinist performed during the service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Provo.

Bryan Lew, a BYU senior majoring in music with an emphasis in performance, performs four movements from the Cello Suite No. 2 by J.S. Bach, as part of the St. Mary's Episcopal Church Lent worship and music series. (Photo by Megan Looney)

Bryan Lew, a BYU senior majoring in music with an emphasis in performance, performs four movements from the Cello Suite No. 2 by J.S. Bach, as part of the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Lent worship and music series. (Photo by Megan Looney)

Bryan Lew, a senior majoring in music with an emphasis in performance, was invited to perform four movements from the Cello Suite No. 2 by J.S. Bach, as part of the congregation’s Lent worship and music series.

Lew said he has played at other churches and will continue to in the future.

“I think playing at different churches definitely strengthens the relationship between our faiths,” Lew said. “Great music will communicate what it’s supposed to communicate no matter what, regardless of faith.”

Ruth Eldredge, who recently graduated from BYU in organ performance, is now the director of music for St. Mary’s.

“Mormons don’t pay their organists, and other churches do,” Eldredge said. “It’s a career path for organ performance majors to play for other churches. The organ is a sacred instrument. You’ll see it in concert halls occasionally, but first and foremost it started in monasteries, cathedrals and chapels.”

Eldredge said BYU has one of the largest organ performance programs in the country.

“It’s really ironic because it can’t be a career unless you’re willing to reach out and work with other Christian or Jewish churches,” she said.

Eldredge said having a concert series is a way for St. Mary’s church to reach out to the general public, and everyone is invited.

“A lot of times we’ll have Episcopalians, and Mormons, and Baptists or Unitarians all playing and singing together,” Eldredge said. “It builds bridges because everyone likes music. People respond to music.”

Rev. Peter J. Van Hook said it’s possible that St. Mary’s has never had an organist who has not been a student or graduate of BYU.

“Musicians in general tend to be very respectful when they are in a place that is not their own, religious or secular, and they tend to be very appreciative,” Van Hook said. “Our relationship with them has been very positive from the beginning.”

Van Hook said one of the main values of St. Mary’s is sanctuary, which explains the church’s welcoming attitude. The reason why, he explained, is that throughout the history of the Episcopalian Church, the church has existed for something other than its members. For this reason, it offers outreach to the community, including the Food and Care Coalition and the opening of its facilities to a dozen different 12-step addiction recovery programs.

“St. Mary’s is to be a safe place for everyone, including our organists, artists of other faiths and for the addicts and their families who use our facilities for their meetings,” Van Hook said.

Beautiful music is also part of that sanctuary.

“Our facility, our ministry is very clearly part of the community,” Van Hook said. “What we are trying to do now is to open up the congregation with this music that is an offering to the community.”

Van Hook said he wants to provide an opportunity for local artists to perform beautiful music together.

“We would love to see this be a place where the community can come together in a very open atmosphere of spirituality and worship,” Van Hook said. “This building has great acoustics so anybody can come simply to sit and listen or they can come and sing with the choir.”

Further information about their Sunday morning services and the congregation’s Lenten Evensong program can be found on stmarysprovo.org.

Megan Looney

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