Around the world, as the coronavirus pandemic has kept people confined to their houses and apartments for weeks on end, many have responded by taking to their balconies to sing, to show gratitude to health care workers, to play music, and to lift one another’s spirits. At the Raybrook campus of Holland Home in Grand Rapids, Mich., they took to their balconies to worship.
“Attention All Residents in Estates II facing East and Northeast,” read the invitation. “At 11:00am on May 21, please join your closest neighbors on your balcony or patio for a brief celebration to honor Christ the King on Ascension Day. We’ll gather to praise God and have fellowship at appropriate social distancing, all five floors of us, plus a few who may gather on the grass and sidewalk below, including several brass players who will lead our singing.”
Matt Boes, Stan Boes, Roger Griffioen, Justin Smalligan, and Norm Sneller—all members of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, who call themselves The Eastern Brass—provided the musical accompaniment. Raybrook resident Mel Hugen, former pastor of Eastern Avenue CRC and now in his 90s, gave the blessing.
“What a joyful time for the residents who are still so stuck in their apartments,” said Emily Brink, who organized the event and directed it from the balcony of her own apartment. Brink, who was the editor of the gray Psalter Hymnal familiar to many Banner readers, has lived at Raybrook for a couple of years. She’d been leading regular hymn-sings in the Raybrook Chapel until it became off-limits for gatherings.
Another similar service took place that afternoon at a different location on the Raybrook campus. “I didn’t even know about it,” said Brink, “but came upon it while taking a walk. I’m not the only one doing this sort of thing, and in fact, I got the idea from someone who did something similar in another set of wings (at Raybrook) on Easter Sunday.”
Notes sent to Brink afterward indicate much appreciation by Raybrook residents.
“What a great service this morning. We could feel the Spirit as we worshiped,” said one.
“It was a wonderful service this morning and it felt so good to gather with friends to do this,” said another.
One couple wrote, “When so many people gathered it was a great feeling of being connected with many believers.”
Non-resident Alice Greidanus was on the sidewalk as the service was taking place. “I thought the service was very beautiful,” she said. “We had beautiful weather, the brass band playing six feet from each other, balconies filled with residents, people taking walks stopping to participate from the sidewalk. We all raised our voices with songs of praise, celebrating our Lord’s ascension. At the end, we all received God’s blessing from Dr. Hugen, not a virtual blessing, but from his balcony. It was wonderful!”