Sunday, November 29, 2009

Performance and participation

Some thoughts about congregational singing from Sarah Flashing at Evangel:
.... Visiting a church last weekend in Wisconsin, I discovered that I was unable to participate in very much of the singing portion of the service. .... This isn’t something inherent to visiting a church, sometimes I experience this in my own church. There are times when I can’t participate even a little in some of the songs because I’m given only words by projector, I have no access to any of the musical notation–unless it happens to be in a hymnal, which is rare in my experience.

.... I recollect as a child that before I knew how to read music, I closely examined the musical notation in the hymnals. Worship was something I was always able to participate in because at the very least, I could follow the directionality of the notes. I knew when to sing higher or lower….and after more experience with the notation, I was able to determine which notes moved faster than others. Once I did learn how to read music, participation became even easier and, in my opinion, more fruitful. ....

...[C]orporate worship requires the involvement of each of us as individuals. I am left to wonder if, not only has the seeker movement or other similar phenomenons proved damaging to the church by adding the hi-tech aspects to worship in order to make it entertaining or friendly, [but] does the inability of the individual to participate reinforce the idea of the worship-performance team? ....

Another, only tangentially related, related thought of my own: What is often thought of as contemporary worship music attractive to those "seeking" is really just a Christian music subculture, bearing little relationship to what is actually being bought and listened to in the culture at large. Consequently, its primary appeal is to those looking for a new church rather than to non-Christians.

Worship in Silence » Evangel | A First Things Blog


  1. thanks for the reflection! And I'm glad to find your blog :) Nice to know there is something redeeming still about the culture of Madison...people like you are there!

  2. Thanks, Sarah. I look forward to reading more from you, too.

  3. -Chants gave way to Choral Music
    -Professional Choirs gave way to congregational singing
    -Hymnals are giving way to lyrics on the wall
    -Tightly structured chords are giving way to spontaneous harmony.

    Church music isn't and has never been static.

    If you can't follow the melody from listening, then the worship leader/team is not doing their job well, IMHO.

    For a long time we provided lead sheets (words and melody) at our church. But, folks quit picking them up, so we quit printing them.

  4. I hear little harmony and a lot of amplified worship leader, I fear.

    Joel, if the words hadn't been projected, people would have picked up the sheets, I'll bet.

    Of course nobody actually teaches the young to sing anymore. It doesn't happen in public school or in the church.


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