Orlando and Singing: Insights from other blogs…

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Blog | 5 comments

You have heard enough of my voice in recent posts, so I thought I would do a cut and paste from two other blogs to vary the diet. The first is a brief response to the Orlando tragedy, the second asks why people aren’t singing in church anymore (and do you agree with that sentiment? Are people singing at your church?) Hope you find them helpful.

On the Orlando Massacre (Jesus Creed)

From Archbishop Justin Welby:

In the wake of the appalling attack in Orlando, I’ve released this joint statement with the Archbishop of York John Sentamu:

“After Sunday’s attack in Orlando, as Christians we must speak out in support of LGBTI people, who have become the latest group to be so brutally targeted by the forces of evil. We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification.

The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship. It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being.

Now, in this time of heartbreak and grief, is a time for solidarity. May God our Father give grace and comfort to all who mourn, and divine compassion to us all.”

Posted at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed

 

 

Why WOULD Anyone Sing in Church These Days? (From: Ponder Anew)

June 6, 2016 by Jonathan Aigner

Why don’t people sing in church anymore?

A quick trip down Google’s memory lane reveals that the internet has been talking about this regularly since at least 2012. And everyone seems to know why.

Nobody knows the songs.

Singing makes men uncomfortable.

It’s just a performance.

We don’t love Jesus enough.

There is truth to some of these points, but the longer I think about this problem, the more I’m convinced we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of figuring out why people aren’t singing, we need to turn around, look at ourselves, and ask, “Why would they sing?”

See, when it comes to our sacred discipline of congregational singing, a lot has changed in our recent history.

We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church. The historic liturgy is out, and the 19th-century revival model is in. Instead of the entire service being filled with acts of worship – congregational prayers, affirmations, responses, and, yes, singing – we’ve decided that the singing alone is the “worship,” followed by preaching or teaching time (NOT worship), and then followed by a little more singing (again, worship) for good measure.

So, while the congregation once had a vital role in the entire service, we’ve decided they really only need to participate during the music.

But we didn’t stop there.

At some point, we decided that corporate worship, especially the music, wasn’t about disciplined, regular reenactment of God’s story. Instead, we decided that the purpose of music was to usher in an emotional experience, a perceived intimate connection with the Almighty. Musical appeal became a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. If we felt something, it couldn’t just be the music, it MUST be the Spirit. (Funny how the Spirit always seems to time its biggest moves around the modulations.)

So, while music was once simply a way to add dimension to our sacred storytelling, we began to exploit its emotional appeal, suggesting the feelings it could evoke to be authentic spiritual connection. The congregation’s work was no longer to sing God’s story, but to feel happy, jesusy feelings while music is played in their midst.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our cultural ability to make music has decreased steadily since the dawn of commercial recorded music. For many years, churches were able to counteract this musical decline by training many in their congregations to sing and understand the written language of music. We had choirs for all ages. Now, most churches have given in to the cultural decline of music appreciation. Instead of training many of our own, we hire a few to stand up and perform from the stage. We once heard the tapestry of vocal timbres, ranges, and textures rising in united praise and thanksgiving for God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ, and welcoming all to join in. Now, we hear one voice, or perhaps a small group of voices, electronically pushed toward us.

So, we’ve stopped teaching ourselves how to sing, and traded the collective voice of the congregation for a few amplified tones.

But we didn’t stop there.

We have a rich history of hymns and songs dating back centuries, set to beautiful, singable melodies with a rich harmonic framework, a group to which each generation added their best. Then we decided we didn’t need these anymore. Their language was too difficult for us, we said, and it just got in the way of our emotional experience, anyway.

So we replaced our hymns with new songs, written for solo commercial recordings. That’s right, we replaced songs created for many voices with songs meant for one or a few.

But we didn’t stop there.

We used to give everyone the printed music, so that they could follow along. But nobody reads music anymore, right? (Of course, many of us once did when we were in the school choir or band, but, well, nevermind…) All those books are heavy. And a waste of paper. So we started projecting words (no music) up on the wall. They’re there one minute, and gone the next, kind of like the songs themselves. People crane their necks and raise their chins to read them in their place on high. They have no idea if the next syllable will be held long or released short. They don’t know if a pitch rises or falls. They just hope to catch on by the time it’s over.

So, we stopped empowering those among us who do read music to use those gifts. And we stopped expecting anyone else to learn. Just sing along with Mitch, and see how it goes. Maybe if you listened to more Christian radio, you’d know what to do.

But we didn’t stop there.

We used to have these majestic and beautiful instruments, with infinite musical palettes and soaring, sustained tones that gave them the ability to breathe life into congregational singing. Now, we’ve dismissed those as passé, and substituted a rock band, fronted by a worship leader. He (it’s usually a he, for some reason) sings his song, and we try to sing along with his cover of our jesusy hot 100 favorites. What’s more, few of these leaders it seems are capable of just plainly, accurately singing the melody. Some of them croon with a whiny, closed-mouthed tone, turning every vowel into an ee-ended diphthong. Others wail in reckless abandon with primal, orgasmic strains, while we sit and watch. They often embellish their performanced with ad libs, rubato, rhythmic embellishments, and melodic freedom, while the audience struggles

So, we replaced an instrument uniquely adept at leading a congregation with a cover band.

Enough! When will we stop?

We’ve minimized the congregation’s role.

We’ve changed our focus from disciplined, intentional music-making to creating emotional responses.

We’ve stopped training musicians.

We’ve chosen songs written for solo performance.

We’ve stopped giving the musicians among us the resources they need to apply their abilities.

We’ve chosen instrumentation that doesn’t support a congregation.

We’ve stopped leading and started performing.

So let’s stop asking why people aren’t singing anymore. It really shouldn’t be a surprise, since we’ve done nearly everything we can to kill congregational singing.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our strategies. Here are a few suggestions for how to encourage good congregational singing.

If you are enjoying this topic, read the rest of it at Ponder Anew . Or perhaps you’d prefer to make your own suggestions in the comments.

Nice chatting…

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Singing to the choir here for sure, thanks Brian

  2. I’m quite surprised that you have published an article that mocks worship music? “jesusy hot 100 favorites” This links to a CCLI list which includes great hymns? I’m confused. It is also historically inaccurate, inaccurate with its music theory, inaccurate with its understanding of the music industry, mocks song writers and mocks technology. I wasn’t expecting this when I came to your blog. Perhaps I’m being to harsh. It reminds of Ecclesiastes 7:10 The sole reason I read your blog is to hear well researched and well thought debates. Please keep up the good work, I would rather listen to your voice.

    • Ah well, I did say I would offer some other voices and that post was +++ popular, so some people relate to it. But it is too reactionary in my opinion.

  3. Hi there, Brian,

    Stephen Stav shared this.

    The blog about the hymn singing has become quite “popular” I was very interested in it because I run a web site with a collection of around 40000 hymns and it is reasonably popular. I love the hymns.

    Ehymnbook.org started off as the original dBase database running on DOS that I created for Stellenbosch Baptist to keep track of their worship schedules. The original listing is preserved in eHymnbook as:
    http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/songBook.php?id=bd00040

    I last visited Bulwer Rd Baptist in 1999 and was shocked to see the pipe organ had disappeared. Apparently they no longer used it. I remember the days when we did records for SABC they loved our singing. Here is one of our favourites:
    http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?id=pd00029
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-dEfvz6Vms

    I am now living in Grabouw in the beautiful Elgin Valley and part of the worship team at the In His Rest Baptist here.

    go well,
    God bless
    Neville

    • Thanks Neville. Good to be in touch after a long time.

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