Way back here, I wrote about an experience we had with the singing of Romanian churches. It’s very funny, so if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
In America, we Christians have forgotten how to sing. We go to church, we listen to a rock-n-roll concert put on by professional musicians who are way better at singing than us so there’s obviously no point in even trying to sing. Besides, even if we did try, we’ve got the music cranked so loud that we’d never be able to hear ourselves anyway, so we’d never quite know if we were singing in key or not. Not that there’s any real reason to sing in key. Were Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Louis Armstrong, or Chuck Berry concerned about singing in key? I think not.
I’m joking of course, but I think, as a culture, we as Americans have mostly given up our ability to sing. We’re so used to being sung to and entertained that, on the whole, we don’t know how to sing well and we generally don’t care to try. Sure, there are groups where singing is a huge part of the community, but that seems more the exception than the rule.
Tonight, Jessie and I attended a Christmas production at Biserica Sfânta Treime (Holy Trinity Church). Our friend Daniel was singing in the choir and invited us to come for the show. And, yes, once again, we were reminded that Romanian churches know how to sing.
So for the next hour we sat, crammed into a pew next to a cheerful old Baptist woman with bad breath, mesmerized by the interwoven harmonies coming from this choir of some of the best singers in the world.
I really like rock-n-roll. I’ve always admired guys like Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes or Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou for writing and performing some incredible music despite their voices that wouldn’t make it on American Idol. I like the raw energy that sometimes comes with a growly, scratchy, straining voice. I like the passion and “realness” that can come from a less-than-perfect vocalist.
But as we sat mesmerized by the singing tonight, I couldn’t help but fall in love again with these people who really know how to use their voices. I know bad singers exist in Romania – I’ve heard some on the radio 😉 – but I’m pretty convinced that they’re not allowed into the churches. 🙂
As an American citizen, getting long-stay visas to Romania isn’t a difficult or expensive thing, just a bit complicated. Things get even more complicated when you try to do the bulk of the work in August or September, because people tend to take their vacations during that time of year.
The past couple months, we’ve been running around from one office to another, emailing one person after another, calling one person after another, turning in form after form, in pursuit of the elusive long-term religious visa. We’ll get it, I’m pretty confident of that, but it’s definitely a process, especially when not everyone speaks perfect English and we speak very imperfect Romanian.
Every official meeting we have, someone eventually has to whip out the official, authoritative administrative stamp. In the words of the dean of the Baptist seminary in Bucharest, “The stamp is holy.” With a stamp, all doors are opened to you. Without a stamp, nothing gets done.
I’m pretty sure that, when you get to the gates of Heaven and Jesus opens the Lamb’s book of life to see if you’re in it, right next to your name will be a nicely placed Romanian government stamp. I don’t think even Jesus is allowed to do anything without one.
I’m kidding of course, but it’s funny just how pervasive the stamp is here. You get a stamp on some receipts (but not all), you need a stamp on warranty cards, you need a stamp on official government or religious documents, you need one on your health insurance paperwork and your medical certificates, you even get one on your rental contract.
Collect them all! It’s fun.
So, yes, in Romania, the stamp is holy.