Coming up for air

I’ve not blogged much recently simply because I’ve been pretty busy. I know I owe Scott a post about my own theological stance but that’s going to have to wait a bit longer as well.

I finally got the first of my research essays handed in last week. Late, but accepted, after a slight misunderstanding over due dates (and how ‘fixed’ they were). A week past Sunday I was preaching and Sunday past I was taking the entire service. So I’ve had little time to focus on reflection and even less to blog my thoughts.

I’m also in the middle of preparing the devotional slot for Wednesday’s MTN and was exceedingly grateful for the distraction of Dorothy’s blog post here which fitted very nicely with where my thoughts were headed.

But I didn’t want to witter on about how busy I am and go for the sympathy vote. I wanted to blog something that is more of a reminder to myself than a full-on, warts-and-all description and reflection.

Yesterday evening was the monthly evening service in my placement church and the theme for the evening was “Sing a new song”. It was an opportunity to learn a few new songs which would be getting done over Lent and Easter. It was in part my fault. Whenever I send a list of suggestions for hymns each week, invariably there are a few (many) which aren’t known. So it was decided that it would be a good time to expand the repertoire a little.

Let’s just say that reactions were mixed (but generally favourable) but the way the service was done was a masterclass in the art of the  ‘ gracious and gentle rebuke’. Sort of like being pummelled by a giant, soft pillow, but one that weighed a ton so that you knew when it landed on on you.

I know that hymns can be an especially emotive subject with people and I do sympathise. I have ranted about it before (can’t remember if I’ve ever blogged about it though). Communal singing is one of the few times when the congregation gets to participate directly and actively in worship and I get very annoyed when that opportunity is compromised through inaccessible hymn tunes and words or overly complex arrangements which only the trained choir can do justice to.

But anyway, there will be a few new tunes over Lent and Easter, and we may even do them several times just to be sure they stick.


3 responses to “Coming up for air”

  1. One of my Christmas presents was the tongue in cheek “50 people who B****** up Britain”  it was full of the usual selection of politicians, Bankers, etc. It also came from a very right wing position (which isn’t me at all) meaning that people I consider more complicit in negatively affecting the state of our nation (like Margaret Thatcher) got off lightly.
    However, one of the entries that took me by surprise was the entry of Graham Kendrick, the author didn’t take particular offence at any of Graham’s songs – That was reserved for Brian Howard’s “Butterfly song” but while that song was seen as worst, Graham was seen as the most influential and prolific and therfor (in the opinion of the author) most guilty for destroying church music.
    While I disagreed with the author, it did make me think about the increase in new but traditional sounding hymns coming from the likes of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty and wonder if perhaps there is a backlash against the modernism in church song-writing that appeared in the 70s and 80s?

  2. Hi Stuart,

    I confess to having a certain sympathy with your author’s position. I think what Kendrick achieved was to re-popularise Christian music – no bad thing. But I think he did it at the expense of some of its integrity and purpose. I find many (but not all) of his songs are difficult for a congregation unless they are well known. They don’t always ‘go’ where you expect them to and the parts can be confusing. That said, they are great for a more performance-style event, led by a worship band. You can sing along if you want to, but it’s about ‘experiencing’ the music. That, to my mind, is not true participation and its danger lies in it being about what ‘I’ experience and not about me worshipping God.

    Getty and Townend (and many others) seem to have found a good balance of sound theology with accessible music, easily sung in a congregational setting. It also has the advantage that it lends itself to more adventurous arrangements for when performance is appropriate. To be fair that’s probably a legacy of Kendrick’s, so to write him off entirely would be very wrong.

  3. Welcome to the busy ministerial life… Interesting discussion on music and worship. I kinda like the Kendrick songs and while they don’t always ‘go where they should’ that isn’t always a bad thing.
    The ‘I’ experience is an interesting area. Where I have seen praise bands in operation I have nearly always come away thinking that I’ve witnessed a performance rather than worship and that performance has been something of a musical ego trip for the performers. I know that isn’t always fair, but that is what I have been left feeling.
    Real worship is a rare commodity. That blend of true singing aided by the musicians, where they are almost incidental to the worship process. It’s almost as if they’re not there, or at least, not dominating the singing, and there need not be singing for music to be uplifting either.
    While out in Israel and after one celebration of communion I found myself humming the tune to ‘Come Holy Ghost our hearts inspire’, a plainsong melody. (someone else starting singing it in another place conpletely unconnected) The setting and the baggage that we bring influences what worship actually happens, and that may be the reason why real and authentic worship seems to be a rare thing.

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