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Can singing hymns be good for your heart?


People of faith can also have a foundation and


perspective beyond themselves that can provide comfort, strength and peace during times of crisis. Taylor said the identities of people of faith are grounded in teachings and understandings of Scripture and mission in the world. “For Lutherans, this is based on our baptismal


proclamation that we are ‘reborn children of God, made members of the church, the body of Christ,’” he said. “Remembering who and whose we are, especially when we find ourselves lost, confused or uncertain in our daily life, can be a key guidepost to navigating through life’s twisty pathways.” Christians commit to believing in a presence that


is neither material nor observable. This practice and acceptance of believing in something that can’t be seen can make people of faith well-equipped to cope with challenges because they can imagine a future beyond a crisis. “The active component in faith that supports


Photo: Lyda Lee, Lyda Studios


Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that choral music has a calming effect on the heart—especially when sung in unison, according to a National Public Radio (NPR) article. Their research was based on a study of high school choir members’ heart rates.


“When you sing the phrases, it is a form of guided breathing,” Bjorn Vickhoff, a musicolo- gist who led the research project, told NPR. “When you exhale, the heart slows down. The members of the choir synchronize externally with the melody and the rhythm, and now we see it has an internal counterpart.”


With music and singing being an important shared experience in religious cultures, this study could explain the calming effect singing favorite hymns in church can contrive in people of faith.


“Singing one’s faith [has been] an important part of being Lutheran from the very beginning,” said Scott Weidler, ELCA program director for worship. “The ELCA Principles for Worship says, ‘In the church, the primary musical instrument is the human voice, given by God to sing and proclaim the word of God.’ Our tradition recognizes that even if it isn’t perfect, there is something really important in congregations coming together to sing.”


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coping in a difficult time is the capacity of faith to kindle hope,” Massey said. “Hope is an anchor that you can throw into the future and faith is the chain on the anchor you can use to pull yourself toward the future. “People who lack faith might lack [the


understanding that the] future can hold promise. The present moment is only the present moment. The God who lives in the present also lives in our future and faith, therefore, can be a bridge to a future and enhances the ability to cope.”


Community of faith Sometimes what benefits someone most from living a religious life is the connection to a faith community. “In mental health we see that there are imbalances


that are present in the neurology of a person, but what seems unique is that being part of a community can transform that neurology,” Massey said. “When one is part of a community, the particular senses of satisfaction and belonging, the experience of emo- tions can attest itself in physical ways.” In addition to offering socialization and a sense of


belonging, faith communities are characteristically known as sanctuaries of support, and this is likely most exemplified during times of crisis. Massey, who has served as a parish pastor and chaplain, said people often seek out spiritual support when they are hospitalized. While health-care chaplains play an important role for people who lack a faith community, he said a visit from someone’s congregation is superior. Anita Marth, a member of Lutheran Church of


the Resurrection, Granite Bay, Calif., sustained life- threatening injuries in a small airplane crash in 2015. She doesn’t know where she and her family would be today without the support of their faith and church community.


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