Monday, February 8, 2010

What do you think about singing at church?

I don't know about you, but I like singing at church. I particularly like singing in Spanish at church. Often words just seem to work better in Spanish and with accents and rrrrrolling our rrrrs it feels more 'musical' than English. Its also good for us as we learn Spanish because song words are usually slower and often repeated, so we can understand whats going on a bit better.

But, you'd be well aware that songs and their words can be a bit of a battleground in church. The 'we want hymns vs the 'we want a drum kit ' discussion will continue for the years to come I expect.

But there is another question that does the rounds from time to time - and thats 'What are we doing when we sing?'. Is the activity we are engaged in 'worship' (as the description of the time of singing and of the person who is leading us in the activity often suggests), is it teaching, is it edification, is it a mix of all? And what about the musicians who are playing. Are they performing, helping us to worship or just making it all sound better and more enjoyable?

I don't want to go into the ins and outs of the debate here - I just want to reflect on a practical example of how what you think you are doing when you are singing comes out in practice.

In most churches these days the song words are projected onto a screen. Song words have evolved from hymn books to overhead projectors to data projectors. My personal favourite was the overhead projector - there's nothing quite like watching the operator get flustered when he can't seem to get the words up the right way - no matter what he does they seem to be upside down or backwards - great stuff!

Anyway - here's the question. What do you do when halfway through a song the projection method fails? The second sheet of words is lost or the bulb blows or the computer dies or whatever. For whatever reason the congregation can't see the words anymore. The musicians and the singers can - their music is in front of them, but the congregation can't join in any longer.

What do you do?

I think your reaction to that situation is a good indication of your theology of singing in church.

There are basically two options. Stop, or keep going.

If you stop then you are saying singing is for the congregation. If they can't sing, then we'll stop until they can.

If you keep going, I think you are saying singing is something we observe and join in if we want to, but its essentially a spectator sport.

For mine, I'm with the first option. I don't think singing is an 'act of worship' any more than washing up the coffee cups is. I don't think singing brings us into the presence of God - the blood of Jesus does that. Singing is about encouraging and teaching one another, expressing our joy in Christ to one another and reflecting on who God is.

So should we stop when the projection fails? Absolutely. Should we break out the hymn books instead? Maybe - or maybe just have a spare bulb handy!

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