Companions on the Journey
January 15, 2014
St. Helena's Threshold Singers as part of St. Helena's Episcopal Church in Burr Ridge, Illinois sings healing and palliative songs for people who are seriously ill or dying in homes, hospitals, hospice centers, and care facilities. Their ministry and those of other similar choral groups were recently featured in the following Episcopal News Service article:
December 19, 2013 [Episcopal News Service]
It all started with a song.
Twenty-three years ago, Kate Munger filled in as a bedside volunteer for a friend dying of AIDS. “All morning I did chores, and in the afternoon I was supposed to sit by his bedside. And he was comatose and agitated, and I was terrified,” she recalled. “I had no idea what to do, so I started singing. I’ve been leading community singing for many years, and there was a song in that period that comforted me, that gave me courage when I was afraid. I sang it for two-and a-half hours.”
By the end of that time, he had calmed, “and I got calmer as well,” she said. “I realized that I had given him the best gift that I personally could give him and that I had given him something essential, something very deep from my soul to his soul.”
Ten years later, in Berkeley, Calif., she started the first of what now are 108 “threshold choirs,” who sing a capella by invitation for people on life’s thresholds. The Threshold Choir network of primarily women’s choirs stretches across the country and as far as Australia and Cambodia, although most groups are in the continental United States and Canada. Members generally visit homes, hospitals, hospices and other locations in groups of two to four, singing softly in what Munger calls “lullaby voice.”