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By Ruth DuCharme

Fall Saturdays at my house will find my family watching the Florida Gators play football. That’s what happens when you are married to a Florida boy who groomed his son to do the Gator chomp at the tender age of two.

On a recent Saturday as we watched the Gators take on the LSU Tigers, we saw more than a football game take place. We witnessed the 88,000 gathered fans join their voices in a tribute to former Gainesville native and University of Florida groundskeeper, Tom Petty. Petty, who died that same week, was memorialized and celebrated for what he meant to the world of music and the Gainesville community by the entire crowd belting out his hit song, I Won’t Back Down.

Gator fan or not, there was something amazing about listening to that crowd singing and celebrating together. Music has a way of stirring our emotions and reminding our hearts of the important things. Listening to this crowd sing, “I will stand my ground, and I won’t back down,” actually caused some emotions to rise up in me.

There is something magical that happens when a group of people sing with passion and fervor. I have felt those emotions when listening to our youth choir sing with the Jubilate choir. I end up in tears every time. Who isn’t moved when 80 or so young voices proclaim, “O, for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise?” I have experienced these feelings in large moments and small moments – from singing John Rutter’s Requiem in Carneige Hall to Wednesday choir rehearsal, singing and clapping to What Does the Lord Require of You with our adult choir.

These are passionate moments, and these are moments that linger with us long after the music has faded. These are moments that cause me to feel hopeful, even when the world seems harsh and unkind. I want to join my voice with those Gator fans and sing, “I will stand my ground, and I won’t back down.” I won’t back down to hate. I won’t back down to injustice. I won’t stop singing and making melody to God. I will let the song of my heart be heard. Will you?