An Unexpected Ministry

It was the spiritual experience of the moment, our recognition of the power of music to speak to places of the heart where mere words can’t reach.

Becky St. Clair

One of the college music ensembles of which I was a member was I Cantori. This select choir included an older community member we’ll call Gary. One very memorable day Gary brought an unusual request to the group. 

He had a friend who lived near the campus who was dying of cancer and was spending his final days in hospice care. Gary wondered if we might be willing to bring a little peace to a man who had loved music all his life. 

Without hesitation we agreed to visit Gary’s friend. Instead of doing warm-ups in the choir room, we clambered into vehicles and drove the mile or so to Gary’s friend’s home. 

When we arrived, the house was nearly silent. A couple of family members greeted us with solemn, grateful smiles under tired eyes and ushered us into their front room, where Gary’s friend lay on a small hospital bed. His pale skin was nearly translucent, his mouth was slightly open, his eyes were closed. The sheet was pulled up over his chest, arms were by his side. 

I Cantori filed quietly into the space— 40 of us in a crooked loop around the man’s bed. As our director’s arms gently moved to indicate the beat, we took a deep breath as one, opened our mouths, and began to sing. 

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home. 

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Bring Thy child home at last,
Where the strife and the pain All are past.
I have dreamed a great dream,
That Thy love shall rule our land.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.

The song continued, but many of us couldn’t. Our throats constricted and our eyes filled with tears as the full meaning of the hymn we’d been rehearsing for weeks hit us with nearly physical force. By the time we completed the third verse, there was hardly a dry eye in the room, and only a handful were able to continue singing. 

To this day, hearing this piece (and even now as I write about it) takes me back to that dying man’s bedside, and tears inevitably fill my eyes. It wasn’t just the sadness of the situation that moved us; it was the spiritual experience of the moment, our recognition of the power of music—and through it, Christ—to speak to places of the heart where mere words can’t reach. 

We were meant to bring peace and comfort to a dying man and his family that day, but the reality was that we were all included in the blessing. The Holy Spirit swept through that room and lovingly embraced us all. 

That’s the way it is with spiritual work: it’s never just a one-way transaction, and rarely is it forgotten. 

To listen to a different choir performing the arrangement we sang that day, visit

Becky St. Clair

Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copyedits for various church entities around the world.