Saturday, April 19, 2008

What happened to singing?

The Pacific Southwest Conference just had its Annual Meeting (Celebration) and Ministerium Meeting in Fremont California. This is an exciting time to be a Covenant pastor in an exciting place. The "mosaic" theme echoed over and over again. Professor Soong-Chan Rah rocked our boats be examining both the cultural captivity of the church ala Niebuhr and Martin Luther. We are in the midst of an exponential wave of change. We are all fortunate to have such a mind like Rah's working on our behalf, helping shape and prepare us to be good stewards of the church.
But I missed the singing. I am thoroughly converted and convinced about the need for quality contemporary music to infuse worship. I could not have said that four or five years ago. New sounds and words, new rhythms and beats bring a deeper texture to worship. But an often missing element is congregational participation in singing. It could be because of electronic amplification that drowns out my own voice and the voices of those around us. That was the case in Fremont. The worship team was composed of excellent musicians, but the leader's voice was so strong we could not hear anyone else on the team or in the sanctuary. It could also be because the sanctuary was acoustically dead; heavy carpeting, padded seats, a low ceiling full of soft surfaces. Every sound that went out was sucked up by the elements around. There was little resonance in the physical room. Today's worship is almost always miked everywhere and mixed in the back by sound technicians. The leader needs to be amplified when he/she is leading a new song where there is no music to follow. We learn new worship songs only by memory, not by musical notation.
What is it that I miss? I miss the sounds of voices singing alone, raised in glorious praise, reverberating off of each other and painting bright pictures of praise. I miss hearing soprano descants and bass rumblings. I miss hearing tight harmonies between tenors and altos. I miss the compelling sense of joining into the praise and not just listening, watching and clapping.
I hope this is not just a white european male issue. I hope this need to enlist congregations in fully participatory worship spans ages and ethnic communities. I would love to hear what your churches are doing to get more voices singing. When we have worshiped in Congo, Kenya and Egypt, those congregations really sang. It seemed like everyone sang and sang loudly. What's with us?


At 3:21 PM , Blogger Beth B said...

We have one pianist who, whenever he accompanies hymns, almost always drops out on the third verse, so that the congregation sings a capella.

It's wonderful to be able to hear our combined voices, in harmony, lifted up to the Lord.

Of course, it works best with hymns...! ;)

At 8:41 PM , Blogger MichaelGP said...

Oh it will be good to be home tomorrow, in your own Church, with your your own acoustics and your own sound guy who REALLY likes hearing the congragations voices! Welcome back!


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