The Rev. Joanne Martindale
Newsletter # 38
First Presbyterian Church Napa
Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Dear Friends,

Some of you know that it is my spiritual practice to sing every morning. I have many hymnals that I have collected over the years (kind of like I collect stoles) and I love to thumb through the hymns and sing them to God. It is a wonderful way to begin the day and often there is so much amazing theology and passion in the words.

As you know, hymn or song lyrics can stick with you! There is something about the sung poetry of them that slides into our hearts and memories. By one count, there are about 79 million songs, and the analogy given to help grasp that number is minutes: 79 million minutes is about 150 years, which means a song every minute since 1866. Wow!

Many years ago, when I was a new staff Chaplain at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in Trenton New Jersey, I took an American Sign Language class at Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf in Ewing Township, New Jersey. The School was next door to Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. One evening a week, for many years, I would learn sign language.

I remember the people in the class very well, they were passionate people and most of them had someone in their families that were hearing impaired. I took the class because I had a neighbor who was hearing impaired and I wanted to be able to talk with her. Once I learned the basics, I began signing to her. In conversation, through American Sign Language (ASL), her intensity and complex thinking were clear. The conversation I remember most, was my very wrong assumption that deaf people didn’t experience music.

She not only experienced music, but she valued it as well. That is to say, my assumption that music didn’t touch her was an assumption that people only understood and experienced music the way I did. My assumption meant I made my experience of music the definition of it.

My neighbor told me it was the vibrations she could feel, both physically and emotionally, and that music sat with her like it sat with me. The physical aspect of music – the sound waves and vibrations and so forth – illustrate not just a common human experience, but the infinite variety of that experience.

So, I invite you to call to mind a song or hymn or instrumental solo that has helped you to feel the most important things. What is the song that has touched you? What is the hymn that has given all the grief and joy of your life meaning? What music leads you to exultation and renewed commitment?

I know that, for Presbyterians, a commonly loved hymn is “Be Thou My Vision,” a beautiful tune and prayer. “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” also lifts hearts throughout the Reformed tradition.

There have been times when I haven’t been able to sing without tears because the music, combined with the lyrics hits me just so. The same is true for popular music. Mumford and Sons’ album Sigh No More, came out at just the right time for me. They had a song that reminded me of what it meant to be who I was, someone not defined by what had happened to me. It begins with expressions of doubt and hurt and then pivots to the exultation of being human in, through, and beyond all that our experiences of grief comprise.

“Awake, My Soul”
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker

Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker

I am wondering – what music prompts prayer in you? All the different prayers you pray?

I know that a lot of us, maybe most of us, have missed communal music this past year. Not being able to sing together or to each other has made our hearts heavy, and the very thing that might comfort our congregation the most, turned out to be a spreader of virus, in addition to joy and comfort. Even though most of us – or some! – have willingly given that up for now it doesn’t mean we don’t care about it.

Have you ever heard Nina Simone singing “I wish I would know how it would feel to be free?” If you haven’t heard of her before, it might help you to know that she was a gifted Black musician born into a poor family in the midst of our country’s Jim Crow laws. She loved classical music, but also expressed herself through popular music, jazz, and folk music. Her life was full of struggle of all sorts, and she was extraordinarily gifted in her musical ability. When she sings the song below, she accompanies herself on the piano.

I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holdin' me

I wish I could say
All the things that I should say

Say 'em loud, say 'em clear
For the whole round world to hear

I wish I could share
All the love that's in my heart
Remove all the bars
That keep us apart

I wish you could know
What it means to be me
Then you'd see and agree
That every man should be free

I wish I could give
All I'm longin' to give
I wish I could live
Like I'm longing to live

I wish I could do
All the things that I can do
And though I'm way overdue
I'd be startin' anew
Well, I wish I could be

Like a bird in the sky
How sweet it would be
If I found I could fly
Oh, I'd soar to the sun
And look down at the sea
Then I'd sing 'cause I'd know, yeah
And I'd sing 'cause I'd know, yeah
And I'd sing 'cause I'd know
I'd know how it feels
I'd know how it feels to be free, yeah, yeah
I'd know how it feels
Yes, I'd know
I'd know how it feels, how it feels
To be free, no, no, no
knew what it feels to be free.

Nina Simone was born to a family descended from slaves, and grew up in the town where her parents were religious pillars of the community. No doubt she was raised on the psalms. I wonder if she heard Psalm 10 in her Bible classes?

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”; all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Their ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of their sight;
as for their foes, they scoff at them.
They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved;
throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.”

Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
They sit in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places they murder the innocent.

Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.

They stoop, they crouch,
and the helpless fall by their might.
They think in their heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land.

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.

I hear in this psalm and in other songs all the stories I have heard about how songs and hymns have strengthened those Christians who have faced persecution. Sometimes this has been persecution because of their faith, and sometimes it has been persecution by way of humanity’s violence against humanity. I think, for instance, of the Vietnam Vets who were prisoners of war in separate cells who sang and taught each other hymns. In fact, John McCain recalled how the singing of hymns, the Lord’s Prayer, and Psalm 23 became subversive unifiers, that is, gave him and other POWs the strength that their imprisonment was supposed to crush.

When I worked with the female Rwandan Refugees after the Genocide, music was what brought them through that horrendous experience. Each of them would sing a note and would hear the notes of the other women during difficult times. Their notes would make a song that helped them get through days of unspeakable grief. Music feeds our soul. All types of music feed us! One of my favorite things to do is listen to Tom Flesher on the organ or piano and listen to Florida Stringer sing, (Oh what talent)!! We are so blessed, in this congregation, to have such talented musicians: Kent Cohea, Eva Facey and Suzanne Quinlan just to name a few (there are so many more). May music come to you today that helps you offer your hope, despair, joy, love, delight, trust, confidence, or whatever it is that your heart needs to express to God.

Pastor Joanne


First Pres Napa News

Lenten Devotionals
Click below for a devotional for the First Week of Lent. We hope these will be a blessing to you and help you grow closer to God as you journey through this season.

In-Person Worship Returns March 7, 10 a.m..
If you have been missing in-person worship, please join us for a beautiful Sunday together back in the Sanctuary, March 7, 2021 at 10 a.m.. We'll also be back to live-streaming, and will continue our breakout groups and sharing on Zoom.

Kids' Church will continue on Zoom at 11:15 a.m..

Please keep your eye on the FPC website for updates on registration for in-person worship as well as our safety protocols and what to expect as we aim to gather in person once again.

For more information or questions, please email or call the church office at 707-224-8693.

News From Finance
  • We are asking each congregation member to pay their "Per Capita Presbytery fee" of $31.46 per person. Our church has had to pay $9,249.24 to the Presbytery of the Redwoods last month, but are asking each member to please pay their individual fees. Please click HERE for the Per Capita 2021 breakdown.

  • 2020 Pledge Statements have now been sent out via email. If you have not received your statement, be sure to double check your spam or junk mail. Please be sure to look over all details. If you have any questions or concerns please call the church office at (707)224-8693 or email Lanard at

Office Updates
  • Reminder- If you have been given credentials and are in charge of launching Zoom for your committee or small group meeting please be sure not to log in any time that is not slotted for your meeting. Logging in at a time other than your designated time will kick out another group who is currently using that account. If you have concerns about signing in, or wanting to test, please call or email Fransine Villasenor

  • The office continues to be closed to outside visitors. Please contact Fransine Villasenor, our Office Manager, to make an appointment if you need to come in in person. She may be reached at (707)224-8693 or at

  • All groups and meetings will continue to remain virtual via Zoom. If you would like to start a virtual meeting group, we are happy to make that possible! Any in-person meetings will be scheduled on an as needed basis. For any questions or assistance, please reach out to Fransine at
First Presbyterian Church of Napa
1333 Third Street
Napa CA 94559
Phone: 707.224.8693