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When the choir came to town

Pub Choir is the growing craze for people wanting a fun night out singing and meeting others but as Scott Guyatt discovered, there may be some profound lessons the church can learn from their community-building efforts.

Recently I found myself on the banks of the Brisbane River, a member of an impromptu Pub Choir of around 600 voices, singing Midnight Oil’s classic rock anthem “Beds are Burning” into the starry night.

What is Pub Choir? It’s a gathering of strangers in a pub, to sing together. The brainchild of three Brisbane friends a year ago, Pub Choir now sells out 800 tickets at its regular monthly Brisbane events and is spreading rapidly. Over a 90-minute session Pub Choir participants learn a song, perform it and then a film of the night is released to social media (after all, if it’s not on Facebook, did it really happen?).

I found the experience incredible and spent a fair bit of the night wondering why it works. Why has Pub Choir become such a raging success story? Could there be lessons here for our church?

Three reasons came to mind.

First, Pub Choir is fun—the team effortlessly evoke the sense of fun that lies within all of us, no matter how dormant it might sometimes seem.

Second, it taps into something else deep inside us—music. Making music together is a deeply compelling thing and Pub Choir offers a safe place to do so.

Third, the barriers to entry are low. Show up, pay your entry fee, open your “sound hole” and sing as best you’re able. Their motto tells it all: “Everybody can sing, and Pub Choir is here to prove it”.

Pub Choir is building community, inviting people into relationships with one another and offering a profoundly enjoyable and enriching experience.

Those seem like great characteristics to shoot for in the kind of experiences and events that churches like yours and mine seek to offer to their community. The kinds of experiences and events that we might like to think of as being missional.

I’m not for a moment suggesting we try to emulate Pub Choir. They’re unique, and they’re doing a great thing. And God bless them for it.

Instead I wonder what happens if we turn to our own passions, our own desires for our communities to experience life in all its fullness, and then deploy the kind of underlying principles that make Pub Choir what it is, as we go about what we’re uniquely called to do.

I even wonder what might happen if our motto was “Everybody can love their neighbour, and the Uniting Church is here to prove it”?

For more information about Pub Choir visit pubchoir.com.au
My Midnight Oil Pub Choir performance is available at facebook.com/PubChoir/videos/585591705137185

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