Music in Worship is at a crossroads, and has been for sometime. In music history I wrote research paper on the writings of Martin Luther, and his views on music in worship. Below are some solutions I put forth. I invite your thoughts.
There is no good answer to the issues facing music in worship today. Both common performance mediums (Traditional and Contemporary Styles) have their positives and negatives. Some of these issues could be solved by a comprehensive music education for all people, but in the Untied States, that simply won’t happen for the time being. What is a solution to this issue that clergy could implement right now?
- Do not be afraid to teach the music to the congregation. If the melody is taught by rote, four measures at a time, it allows the congregation to get the pitch changes, and also spend more time with the lyrics and message of the song. If led by the clergy of the church, this can also provide a different type of connection to the members of the congregation, then can be found from preaching behind the pulpit.
- Offer classes. Many churches already offer out of service classes about many topics of spiritual importance.Why shouldn’t music be one of them? Offering classes on how to read hymns, or music in general would create a ministry opportunity that hasn’t been seen before. This can provide an entirely different ministry that is lacking from almost all churches, can help prevent people from being alienated by the hymn book, and allow clergy to connect to an entirely different group of congregants. (It might even help recruit people for the choir.
- Ask your congregation. The type of music that they like is important in order for them to connect to the music. Ask the congregation the type of music they prefer and see if you can incorporate this into the musical worship.
- Use accompaniment appropriate for the song. Do not be afraid to use a guitar for one song, an organ for another, or a flute for the next. A great example of this would be to compare to songs that are popular in my own church.
- The first hymn,“O’ For a Thousand Tongues” by Charles Wesley, was written to be accompanied by Organ or Piano, so using this accompaniment would be appropriate to the context it was written.
- The second hymn, “Shine Jesus Shine” was written for a praise band accompaniment, so using the church organ to accompany this song would not be appropriate. In this case, leading the congregation with a guitar or jazz piano would make much more sense.
- Make it fun. In his letter to the Church at Wittenberg, Luther writes “… taking care lest the people should either be bored by too much repetition.” Luther wants the congregation to be interested in the music. Part of the way he made this happen was to include many types of music in his services. By making the music fun and enjoyable for the congregation to sing, the chances for congregants to connect to the spirituality of the song improves exponentially.
One of the key points of the reformation, started by Luther, is that there should be no secret to spiritual connection. This connection is for all people, not just the rich or the clergy. Music helps to create this connection and should be encouraged in all settings of worship. In Luther’s favorite scripture, Psalm 96, it states to “Sing unto the lord a new song. All the Earth.” It is far past time that music in worship started to sing a new song. A song that encourages all people in worship to sing along, not just the trained musicians. How that happens will have to be decided at each congregation. I hope that in my own church congregation we can begin to expand the congregational music making, and help people connect to the spirit they are called to.