“Why do we exist?”
This is a question that every organization must ask itself, and it is not a question to be taken lightly. You see, an organization’s existence is a tacit claim that the organization is worth investment by stakeholders. For Deo Cantamus of Minnesota, the investments are substantial. Composers and arrangers spend full seasons bringing their musical expressions to life. The artistic director spends months recruiting singers; selecting pieces that coalesce into a musical program; determining ideal phrasing; balancing the ensemble; and leading the chorale and instrumentalists through the development and execution of a program. Singers and instrumentalists spend weeks learning their parts, rehearsing, reviewing problem areas, and aligning musical phrasing to the director’s high standards. Patrons purchase tickets, giving their time and attention to hours of concerts, and making donations that sustain the organization. Still others manage lighting, operate soundboards, design programs, draft promotional materials, proofread programs, collect tickets, secure the concert venue, talk strategy, purchase music, maintain the website, send emails, pay royalties, and do much more. The question remains: “Why do we exist? Why is Deo Cantamus of Minnesota, specifically, WORTHY of so much investment?”
As a member of Deo Cantamus’s Board of Directors, I recently had the privilege of reflecting on this question.
My reflections led me to the initial verses of the 96th Psalm:
Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
In this small biblical excerpt, I had everything that I needed to understand why Deo Cantamus should exist. Deo Cantamus of Minnesota exists for a distinctly Christian purpose. It exists to fulfill the command to sing to the Lord a new song. We express our worship to the Lord in new expressions each time we offer our praise. It exists to bless the Lord’s name. We recognize the consecrated nature of God’s name and hold His name in high esteem in our song. It exists to proclaim the good news of the salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ, over and over again. Many of our texts declare the specific truths of the gospel message. It exists to declare God’s glory and wonders among all people. Each time we sing, we magnify the glory and wonders of God to others. What a high calling!
“We sing for God.” This has been the motto of Deo Cantamus from its inception, and the motto is no less true today than when the organization was founded. While there are other vocal ensembles in the Twin Cities area that perform excellent classical works—and many that even sing religious works—our organization is distinct in that the chorale is comprised of believers who can truly say “We sing for God!” We believe the message that we sing, and we have salvation through the gospel that we declare in song. Our song has meaning and depth that no secular voice may ever acquire.
“But what about the church? Are not local church choirs able to accomplish the purpose of praising the LORD?”
By no means do I intend to detract from the importance of the local church in worship. Like Deo Cantamus’s chorale, local church choirs are also comprised of believers who accomplish the purposes of praising the LORD. Local church choirs cannot be replaced. But we would be remiss to say that worship starts and ends in the confines of the local assembly. Indeed, as believers, we understand worship not just as a temporal act, but as a walk of life.
I have a good friend who once wisely stated that “truth deserves many mirrors.” The point of his statement is simple. Truth deserves to be repeated endlessly, for no other reason than that it is true. This is the case both inside of the church service and without. It is just as true in external and personal settings as it is in formal, scheduled worship. The truth of our great God is worth repeating.
And the need to repeat the truth of our God can only be fully appreciated in the context of Who God is. He is great! He is greatly to be praised! He is to be feared above all gods! For our God is the true God Who spoke the heavens into existence. As Creator, He is King of the Universe, deserving the honor and the majesty due the Supreme Ruler of all existence. He is all powerful, stronger than the armies of the nations. And yet He is also a God of beauty, creating the flower of the field, the bird of the air, and the melodies and harmonies of our song. He sets the standard for what is beautiful and what is right. As the righteous judge, He is the God in Whom is all justice. In this context, the heavens rejoice, the earth is glad, the sea roars, the fields ripple with joy, and the forests ring with exultation. How can we do anything other than resound with all of creation the song of our great God?
From this perspective, the importance of an organization like Deo Cantamus becomes very clear. Deo Cantamus of Minnesota is worthy of our time, efforts, and resources because its mission is to praise our great God. God’s very character compels our worship and our song. My prayer for our organization is that we keep this high calling in mind every time we donate a dollar, create a budget, plan a concert, or rehearse a line. “For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised!”