It is empowering to meet someone who knows that they are doing exactly what God has called them to do. That is the case with Dr. Jerry Davidson.
Jerry is the Music Director at Trinity Episcopal Church in Torrington. Before Torrington, Jerry was the Professor of Church Music at Louisiana State University. However, he has been a church musician since the age of 13, growing up in rural Arkansas in the Methodist church. He received an MA in Sacred Music from Union, and a PhD in Music Theory from Northwestern University.
I sat down with Jerry and Eliza Marth, the Northwest Region Missionary, for coffee to talk church music, spirituality, and this new hum of energy happening within the Northwest Region.
“I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do,” Jerry said. Jerry made his way to Connecticut because his wife, the Rev. Susan Davidson (who was the first female rector in a parish in Louisiana), was called to serve as Priest-in-Charge at All Saints, Wolcott. His wife suggested he apply for the position at Trinity.
Within his ten years at Trinity, Jerry has made an impact in the community, and the diocese. When he arrived to Connecticut, the Episcopal Church in Connecticut’s directory of church musicians was non-existent. Jerry worked with the Association of Anglican Musicians and other parishes in ECCT to create a working directory for church musicians, which he still maintains as best he can. This directory helped to create a community among the musicians. Which, with the help of Eliza, has led to regular luncheon gatherings and chances to “shake up this energy in the Northwest Region,” as Eliza says.
“I loose what is [at Trinity], musically,” Jerry said. “I get people together to make music and praise God.” Jerry believes that these are the dark ages, not the 12thand 13thcenturies, but now. “There is an anti-traditionalism, ritual, and Christianity now,” Jerry laments, “I am trying to keep a spark alive.” And, to be honest, I think Jerry is doing a great job at just that. Jerry is at the nucleus (with the Rev. Nik Combs, Priest-in-Charge at Trinity, and many other local church musicians) of a vibrant collaborative Evensong with parishes in the Northwest Region.
I asked Jerry what it is like for him to watch this recurring event come to be and where it is going. “We haven’t even begun to talk about the growing potential,” he said. There have been four Evensongs so far, the first was just local choirs, then it grew a little more, then to the region, the last one included folks from all over ECCT. “Never mess with the Holy Spirit, that is what’s at work here.”
Before each Evensong, Jerry sends out copies of the sheet music, so people can practice and become more comfortable before they arrive. When folks arrive, they are welcomed into a “sacred space,” Eliza said. “He has created a space to hold different talents. Different people sing, play the organ, chant, etc., it is a dance of talents and gifts in abundance.”
Singing hymns together, for Jerry, is beyond just a pleasant communal experience – it is one of the main threads that connects us to our ancestors. “It is with the community of saints [that we sing],” Jerry said. The choir is not the performers and the congregation its audience. “We are the performers, God is the audience.”