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Songs of praise and devotion


chillinrev
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Hello everybody-

I visit this forum with some frequency, but have never bothered to post anything until now. For what it's worth, I don't contribute to NPR either, and yet I continue to listen... It must be a pattern.

Contemporary "praise and worship" music seems to me to have an inherent problem, which is neither repetition, shallow poetry, nor decibel levels (though each of these may be real problems for many of these songs): The biggest problem is that they are not suitable for congregational worship. It doesn't keep churches from trying it, but the problem is that 90% of these songs are written by some dude with a guitar who is only able (or who only tries) to write in the singer- songwriter/ pop genres. Now, they may be fine songs for someone to perform (I think they usually aren't but THAT's not the problem), but get over 20 people singing them, and it's lame, lame, lame. Again, the problem is not the song, as such. It's just the wrong song for the occasion. It could be "Whole Lotta Love," and if you've got a bunch of people singing the melody in unison, it's a recipe for pure hokum. That's why even the thought of bringing an "unchurched" friend who has really good taste in music to that kind of a church just feels embarrassing. The kids who write these songs are as earnest as can be, but it seems to me that they couldn't write a song that is truly suitable for congregational worship if they tried. And this, I think, is why churches have turned their back on congregational singing in favor of concerts on Sunday mornings. You say "they're not concerts- they're contemporary worship experiences". But I say, they got people on a stage, facing an "audience" singing into mics and playing through a PA, complete with vocal syncopations and melismas which seem designed to be unsingalongable. The congregation is not exactly playing a critical role. It's a performance. And the musicians want to be seen as much as the audience wants to see the musicians.

Of course, I think "traditional hymns" are far better, but the best option I can think of is Sacred Harp singing. For those who are unaware, this is the earliest distinctively American hymn tradition. It's 4 part a cappella shapenote singing. It's loud, haunting/ beautiful, and anybody can do it. Plus, we arrange ourselves in a hollow square, with each part represented on each side, so there is no audience- we are singing for God and one another. And it's specifically designed for congregations to sing. Each part is melodically interesting, rather than having a main melody with supporting (and boring) harmonies. And the lyrics are perfect- they don't shy away from the God of the Bible one bit.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the areas of greatest growth in the Sacred Harp world are largely among younger secular urbanites in cities like NYC, Portland, Chicago, Boston, etc. Perhaps it gives them a way to be engaged in a spiritual tradition where they otherwise lack one. By the way, for all of this new Praise & Worship music's desire to be "seeker friendly," I have yet to hear of young secular folks getting together to sing it together on a monthly, and sometimes weekly basis. And yet Sacred Harp, which is the least "seeker friendly" stuff I can think of, has had this very thing happen.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I made a documentary about Sacred Harp which has recently been airingon PBS around the country.

Here's some texts we sing which are liable to put hair on your chest:

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=317

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=49b

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=30b

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=535

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=263

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=365

If you're interested in finding a singing near you (and they're everywhere now) go here

http://fasola.org/singings/

If you wanna know about our movie (I knew it! It's been an ad!!!) and hear some songs:

http://www.awakemysoul.com /

Sorry for such a negative first post,

Matt

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And this, I think, is why churches have turned their back on congregational singing in favor of concerts on Sunday mornings. You say "they're not concerts- they're contemporary worship experiences". But I say, they got people on a stage, facing an "audience" singing into mics and playing through a PA, complete with vocal syncopations and melismas which seem designed to be unsingalongable.
The poor worship leaders (and they are legion) cannot foster participation in their approach to contemporary worship songs. The good ones know which songs that best fosters singing, in a key that anybody can reach, in a syncopated style that is simplified and not hard to grasp.

Methinks yer painting a much harsher picture than the actual reality, in favor of your Sacred Harp doc. I mean, I hope for your benefit that Sacred Harp catches on... but this is another thread altogether.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Oh! I was actually being facetious about it being an ad! It's just hard to point to Sacred Harp recordings which happen to be at our website without it seeming self-serving. I really did not post this to advertise our film. I am promoting Sacred Harp singing, not our film. And for what it's worth, Sacred Harp singing has caught on plenty well enough- just search Youtube and you'll find hundreds of videos of Sacred Harp singing (mostly poor sounding, btw) from around the world, not to mention it being featured in the film Cold Mountain and most recently in an article in TIME magazine...

As this is a thread about songs of praise and devotion, it seems like the right thread to me, but it also would have been odd to give my list like this:

Corinth

Abbeville

Russia

China

Lloyd

Detroit

Which are all songs from the Sacred Harp.

By the way, for my money, John Ringhofer is the most insightful writer of pop songs which are almost all oriented toward the worship of God:

http://www.halfhandedcloud.com/

Matt

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I picked up Religion Is a Fortune, the Sacred Harp compilation on County Records, which consists of archival low-fidelity recordings from the '20s. Cool if you like that sort of thing. I'll try to check out the film; modern recording techniques might do the songs some more justice. Do you know if there's a Sacred Harp group active in Seattle? It's the sort of thing my wife & I would enjoy doing together.

There's a blog post somewhere by a musicologist dissecting some mophead's lame new tune for "And Can It Be," noting that every freakin' note is syncopated and the melodic form, instead of being ABAB or AABB or ABACA or something semi-interesting like that, is A A' A A'. Classic stuff. We also have some classic discussions on related topics in old threads here at A&F.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Oh! I was actually being facetious about it being an ad! It's just hard to point to Sacred Harp recordings which happen to be at our website without it seeming self-serving. I really did not post this to advertise our film. I am promoting Sacred Harp singing, not our film.
Fair enough. There's nothing wrong at being so utterly passionate about something that you make a film towards its promotion. My point is that I thought (and still think) that you paint a picture of modern p&w that, in my experience, is simply not accurate. YMMV.

I have no beef with Sacred Harp, just as I have no beef towards Gregorian Chant or polyphony or the fervant liturgical singing that takes place at Melchite Catholic parishes. But here's the thing: the concepts are so utterly foreign to modern ears that it's almost unheard of for people unaccustomed to this style to pick it up without being totally immersed in that environment, for a particular length of time. But once picked up, it becomes beautiful, natural, and joyous. People travel great distances to these sorts of churches, and when they arrive, they are surrounded by friends with like-minded sensibilities. It fosters the illusion that such singing is easier than it actually is. And, for your benefit, perhaps it is easy. I make no judgment one way or another.

But my beef, and it stands, is that you have taken your experience of p&w being a "concert", which in my experience is simply not accurate, except in those cases where the lead musician has proven his incompetence, both in choosing the material, and in leading the congregation. (And in some cases, I have been that lead musician.)

Personally, I think that if you edited out your entire negative diatribe against modern p&w (which in reality, is a negative diatribe based entirely upon your experiences), and just focused on Sacred Harp, and even naming the titles that you shared, would have been far more inviting. The accusations against modern p&w earlier in the thread had far more substance in them, as it was based on the objective realities of what the lyrics contained, and that many songs were repeated too much. But as a Charismatic Catholic, I've witnessed far too many rebuttals to the cries that all modern p&w is unsingable. L.O.L.

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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First, welcome Matt. I met you briefly about a year and a half ago at the Festival of Faith and Music at Calvin College. It's nice to see you here. I also appreciate your enthusiasm for Sacred Harp music. I know precious little about it, but I can certainly hear why you are drawn to it. There is an unearthly quality to the music that is both beautiful and worshipful to me. Of course, I say the same thing about rock band Sigur Ros.

And I guess that's the point. You're making a lot of unequivocal statements. Here is one of them:

But I say, they got people on a stage, facing an "audience" singing into mics and playing through a PA, complete with vocal syncopations and melismas which seem designed to be unsingalongable. The congregation is not exactly playing a critical role. It's a performance. And the musicians want to be seen as much as the audience wants to see the musicians.

This is simply not true. It's incorrect. How's that for unequivocal? Performance is an occupational hazard any time fallen human beings open their mouths and sing, whether they are singing a Mozart Mass or "Jesus, I Really Dig You" or Abbeville. I can assure you that I've seen plenty of strutting mezzo-sopranos in the choir loft in my day. But so what? People who lead worship either understand the nature of worship or they don't, but I can also assure you that many of them do, and that the last role they want to play is that of "performer." The people I know who lead worship would be as offended by that concept as you. They're not up there to have people look at them.

"Unsingalongable" is fairly debatable, of course, but there seems to exist a significant segment of the Christian population who have mastered the art of singing along to these choruses. They appear to get it. I think it's okay that you don't like it. I don't like a lot of it myself. But you've essentially branded a huge segment of the evangelical church as inferior Christians. They can't worship. And you're wrong. I hope you'll rethink your position.

Hello everybody-

I visit this forum with some frequency, but have never bothered to post anything until now. For what it's worth, I don't contribute to NPR either, and yet I continue to listen... It must be a pattern.

Contemporary "praise and worship" music seems to me to have an inherent problem, which is neither repetition, shallow poetry, nor decibel levels (though each of these may be real problems for many of these songs): The biggest problem is that they are not suitable for congregational worship. It doesn't keep churches from trying it, but the problem is that 90% of these songs are written by some dude with a guitar who is only able (or who only tries) to write in the singer- songwriter/ pop genres. Now, they may be fine songs for someone to perform (I think they usually aren't but THAT's not the problem), but get over 20 people singing them, and it's lame, lame, lame. Again, the problem is not the song, as such. It's just the wrong song for the occasion. It could be "Whole Lotta Love," and if you've got a bunch of people singing the melody in unison, it's a recipe for pure hokum. That's why even the thought of bringing an "unchurched" friend who has really good taste in music to that kind of a church just feels embarrassing. The kids who write these songs are as earnest as can be, but it seems to me that they couldn't write a song that is truly suitable for congregational worship if they tried. And this, I think, is why churches have turned their back on congregational singing in favor of concerts on Sunday mornings. You say "they're not concerts- they're contemporary worship experiences". But I say, they got people on a stage, facing an "audience" singing into mics and playing through a PA, complete with vocal syncopations and melismas which seem designed to be unsingalongable. The congregation is not exactly playing a critical role. It's a performance. And the musicians want to be seen as much as the audience wants to see the musicians.

Of course, I think "traditional hymns" are far better, but the best option I can think of is Sacred Harp singing. For those who are unaware, this is the earliest distinctively American hymn tradition. It's 4 part a cappella shapenote singing. It's loud, haunting/ beautiful, and anybody can do it. Plus, we arrange ourselves in a hollow square, with each part represented on each side, so there is no audience- we are singing for God and one another. And it's specifically designed for congregations to sing. Each part is melodically interesting, rather than having a main melody with supporting (and boring) harmonies. And the lyrics are perfect- they don't shy away from the God of the Bible one bit.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the areas of greatest growth in the Sacred Harp world are largely among younger secular urbanites in cities like NYC, Portland, Chicago, Boston, etc. Perhaps it gives them a way to be engaged in a spiritual tradition where they otherwise lack one. By the way, for all of this new Praise & Worship music's desire to be "seeker friendly," I have yet to hear of young secular folks getting together to sing it together on a monthly, and sometimes weekly basis. And yet Sacred Harp, which is the least "seeker friendly" stuff I can think of, has had this very thing happen.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I made a documentary about Sacred Harp which has recently been airingon PBS around the country.

Here's some texts we sing which are liable to put hair on your chest:

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=317

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=49b

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=30b

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=535

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=263

http://fasola.org/indexes/1991/?p=365

If you're interested in finding a singing near you (and they're everywhere now) go here

http://fasola.org/singings/

If you wanna know about our movie (I knew it! It's been an ad!!!) and hear some songs:

http://www.awakemysoul.com /

Sorry for such a negative first post,

Matt

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Cool! The maker of the Sacred Harp documentary is on here. :) *waves*

I like Sacred Harp a lot. It's some of my favorite stuff on Goodbye Babylon, that big old-time gospel compilation.

From what I've read, Sacred Harp singing accomodates both good voices and bad voices in performance. You can sing or bray as loudly as you want--it's all part of the whole. FWIW, this isn't the case with modern P&W. You simply don't lead songs if you have a poor singing voice.

The two scenarios aren't perfectly comparable (I don't know if anyone "leads" the songs in Sacred Harp), and I've never attended a live Sacred Harp performance, but the point still stands...somewhere.

Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

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I'm coming out of RUF

No shame in that; many a great golfer has done the same.

Not a bit of shame; becoming involved with RUF is probably the best thing I've ever done with my spiritual life, to be honest with you. I wouldn't be near as comfortable being on this message board without it.

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FWIW, this isn't the case with modern P&W. You simply don't lead songs if you have a poor singing voice.

Ooh! That depends on the church and its talent pool. No blanket statements here, but I've certainly heard people leading songs who shouldn't have been.

Not a bit of shame; becoming involved with RUF is probably the best thing I've ever done with my spiritual life, to be honest with you. I wouldn't be near as comfortable being on this message board without it.

Whaaaa...?

Oh, I get it. This RUF.

Not this one.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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I picked up Religion Is a Fortune, the Sacred Harp compilation on County Records, which consists of archival low-fidelity recordings from the '20s. Cool if you like that sort of thing. I'll try to check out the film; modern recording techniques might do the songs some more justice. Do you know if there's a Sacred Harp group active in Seattle? It's the sort of thing my wife & I would enjoy doing together.

Yeah, even Sacred Harp singers often have a hard time with the old 78s. They certainly don't represent what Sacred Harp actually sounds like- but nor do newer recordings, really. More than most music, you really haven't heard it until you've heard it in person.

There's liable to be a different kind of singer in Washington than we have in GA & AL, but they're bound to be friendly.

Try here: http://pnwshs.org/

matt

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Not a bit of shame; becoming involved with RUF is probably the best thing I've ever done with my spiritual life, to be honest with you. I wouldn't be near as comfortable being on this message board without it.

Whaaaa...?

Oh, I get it. This RUF.

Not this one.

Yeah, the first time I heard about the, uh, other RUF, I was a bit taken aback.

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As far as the worship "experience" goes, I can definitely say that I've witnessed both-- services that turn into concerts and services that are being well-led by people who knew the focus shouldn't be on them or their abilities. This doesn't mean that there wasn't a call for artful presentation on-stage; let's not forget that singers and musicians were important in the Bible, too, not just the songs themselves. As I'm sure most of you know, often in censuses they are given their own sub-category or at least counted, if not named. It can swing either way.

I think, though, that aside from good songs for praise and devotion, it has a lot to do with the heart and willingness of those in the congregation (or audience). For clarification, that's not to say that the congregation is entirely at fault for not being able to worship in an environment where it's being made extremely difficult for them to do so. But I've also been at concerts-- modern Christian rock concerts-- in which I felt just as inspired to worship and just as touched as some "retreat" experiences. One Falling Up concert and a piano-and-drums only rendition of "Falling in Love" springs to mind.

But back on the previous topic, I was going to edit, but I'll just note here instead that I gave the wrong title of a Jars of Clay song I mentioned. It's actually "River Constantine."

I'll have to check out Sacred Harp music, Matt! It might not always be "my thing," but I'm definitely up for different styles.

And congregation, group-worship aside, I've definitely been brought to tears over some Todd Agnew songs and Michael W. Smith's version of "Agnus Dei." I think Nick mentioned that earlier.

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I have no beef with Sacred Harp, just as I have no beef towards Gregorian Chant or polyphony or the fervant liturgical singing that takes place at Melchite Catholic parishes. But here's the thing: the concepts are so utterly foreign to modern ears that it's almost unheard of for people unaccustomed to this style to pick it up without being totally immersed in that environment, for a particular length of time. But once picked up, it becomes beautiful, natural, and joyous. People travel great distances to these sorts of churches, and when they arrive, they are surrounded by friends with like-minded sensibilities. It fosters the illusion that such singing is easier than it actually is. And, for your benefit, perhaps it is easy. I make no judgment one way or another.

Well, I certainly agree that it's different. But to say that it's almost unheard of for people unaccustomed to this style to pick it up without being totally immersed in that environment is not correct. There are thousands of people outside the traditional home of Sacred Harp who have picked it up and sing together in cities across the country- even in the UK and Australia. Now if you mean by "in that environment" you mean "around other people who sing", you are correct. It is community singing and it cannot be done alone.

As to whether or not it's easy, most people can't just waltz in to a singing and start singing every song. But it is written in shapenotes specifically to make it easier to learn than traditional notation. What's best is that the priorities associated with solo performance singing are not abided by in this context. In other words, you don't have to have a pretty voice, vibrato, etc. For what it's worth, one of the early tunebooks was printed with the phrase "simple music for simple people" on it. It doesn't sound simple, but when you're in your section, it's far easier to figure out what's going on. It MAY take as long as a half a year of fairly routine singing to get used to "singing the notes" (ie fa sol la & mi) for most of the songs. And then, the rest of your life to master it....

BTW, you say The accusations against modern p&w earlier in the thread had far more substance in them, as it was based on the objective realities of what the lyrics contained, and that many songs were repeated too much. and while I agree that this is a trait of much p&w music, in the end, it is not a substantial critique of the genre because some p&w employs old sturdy texts with new music and may not be repeated frequently. My problem with them is that they are pop songs, which is fine outside the church but problematic in worship. It is all to do with the compositional priorities of such songs. To me, they sound as hokey as can be when sung by a bunch of people precisely because they have the kind of melodies which are associated with pop music. If there is some that is not pop music, I just haven't heard it, and I hope you'll beg my pardon. This issue, by the way, has only occurred to me since I've been an active Sacred Harp singer, so it is in all likelihood more noticable by folks who DO regularly sing music that was well designed for congregational singing. I always knew that p&w sounded hokey to me- I just didn't know why...

Finally, I didn't say that p&w is "unsingable." That's not the case. What seems to be true in my experience, is that the performance styles of that kind of music more or less parallel much popular music, in that the folks singing on the stage often employ melisma and syncopations (that they may have heard on the CD that they practiced with, for example) that are inconsistent from verse to verse for example, thus rendering it difficult for a congregation to follow it when it's less common to have written music for the congregation. Thus, "unsingalongable".

Also, I hope I don't have to say that the epithets "hokey," etc are my opinions. The words "I think" seem redundant when they precede an opinion. To me.

Sorry to start a debate. I forget sometimes that we are not all privy to the same experiences. My bad.

Matt

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Hi Andy-

I remember meeting you (I think I was with Josh J). Howdy!

There is an unearthly quality to the music that is both beautiful and worshipful to me. Of course, I say the same thing about rock band Sigur Ros.

And I can say the same thing about seeing The Jesus Lizard, Radiohead, Blonde Redhead, Elliot Smith, etc. So we're in the same camp there. Not that I know your feelings about the Jesus Lizard...

You say: They're not up there to have people look at them.

Then why, pray tell, are they up there? On a stage? In front of people? There is something to be said of the old model of placing the choir behind the congregation. While I certainly don't know the hearts of folks doing this, I know where the dangers lie. For years, I played guitar in front of a church, etc. I don't blame the musicians for the existence of that stage, but would urge music ministers to get musicians off of them. They don't need to be there.

By the way, I grant that my statements were of the blanket variety, but as there are exceptions to most rules, I figured that went without saying.

You said: But you've essentially branded a huge segment of the evangelical church as inferior Christians. They can't worship. And you're wrong. I hope you'll rethink your position.

I'm not sure how this came across. Of course I don't think of any of these folks as inferior anything. I'm simply suggesting that while the music of most churches involves performance on some level, whether it's a robed choir or a rock band, there is an alternative which seems to suit the spirit of Christian worship more closely, to my mind. If you were to attend a Sacred Harp singing (not a performance!), I'd be very surprised if you didn't come away thinking how less like a performance it is than very many Protestant churches. Just a hunch.

Sorry if I offended you. Didn't mean to...

Matt

First, welcome Matt. I met you briefly about a year and a half ago at the Festival of Faith and Music at Calvin College. It's nice to see you here. I also appreciate your enthusiasm for Sacred Harp music. I know precious little about it, but I can certainly hear why you are drawn to it. There is an unearthly quality to the music that is both beautiful and worshipful to me. Of course, I say the same thing about rock band Sigur Ros.

And I guess that's the point. You're making a lot of unequivocal statements. Here is one of them:

But I say, they got people on a stage, facing an "audience" singing into mics and playing through a PA, complete with vocal syncopations and melismas which seem designed to be unsingalongable. The congregation is not exactly playing a critical role. It's a performance. And the musicians want to be seen as much as the audience wants to see the musicians.

This is simply not true. It's incorrect. How's that for unequivocal? Performance is an occupational hazard any time fallen human beings open their mouths and sing, whether they are singing a Mozart Mass or "Jesus, I Really Dig You" or Abbeville. I can assure you that I've seen plenty of strutting mezzo-sopranos in the choir loft in my day. But so what? People who lead worship either understand the nature of worship or they don't, but I can also assure you that many of them do, and that the last role they want to play is that of "performer." The people I know who lead worship would be as offended by that concept as you. They're not up there to have people look at them.

"Unsingalongable" is fairly debatable, of course, but there seems to exist a significant segment of the Christian population who have mastered the art of singing along to these choruses. They appear to get it. I think it's okay that you don't like it. I don't like a lot of it myself. But you've essentially branded a huge segment of the evangelical church as inferior Christians. They can't worship. And you're wrong. I hope you'll rethink your position.

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Ooh! That depends on the church and its talent pool. No blanket statements here, but I've certainly heard people leading songs who shouldn't have been.

Oh yeah, that happens too. Consider my statement amended. :)

Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

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I'm glad some of you defended the "drivel" that is passing itself for worship music. I am a worship pastor and have been one for 10 years. It makes me angry and hurt, frankly, when people throw such undeserved grenades our way. I care deeply about good music and art. I care deeply about worship and God's people coming together to worship and experience God. I know I'm not alone. I find much to praise and much to use in today's praise and worship market. Like you, I love Bruce Cockburn and Over the Rhine and the innocence mission and Sam Phillips. I love The Choir and Bob Dylan and Lost Dogs and 77s. I often roll my eyes at the whole "Christian Bookstore" subculture. But I also know that most "worship" artists are honestly trying to give the best of who they are and what they can do to serve the Lord's purposes in the Church and in the world.

I think there are some great writers and musicians today dedicated to writing music that the Church can express to the Lord... Vicky Beeching, David Crowder, Tim Hughes, Brian Doerksen, and some of Hillsong United's stuff is beautiful.

I guess I just hate generalizations. "All worship music is crap." Whatever. I mean, if it's the commercialization of worship music you are against, say that. If it's the Christian subculture that cloisters itself away from the world, rail against that. If it's mediocre music and lyrics, say that. But the whole "worship music sucks" thing has been been beat to death, and it's just not true. It never was.

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I didn't move here to Mars Hill GR for the "worship experience," a phrase that I already have a problem with, but rather we moved here for teaching that resonated with us as truth. Imagine my surprise then, when I found that what they are doing here in the music portion of the service is wonderful. It's helped me to not give up on the music portion of a Christian service altogether. Even more than that, it has been deeply touching, and has brought me to tears.

And the musicians’ backs are to us.

They border a square and face the same power point screen that we do (simple white letters on a black background), which also displays on four sides in a square. Ever since attending a service done in this fashion, I have a hard time going to other churches that have, as has been noted, a little show going on. Hey, I won't diss it altogether -- I was a part of that show for many years. I didn’t know any better back then. But there is something inspirational about altogether separating yourself and the church body from the show element. It's liberating to drop at least a small portion of the "human pride and entertainment" thing, and aim for an experience that is less about the leaders and more about reality.

The songs are awesome too, as are their selections. They write their own songs, they play lots of hymns, they do a little David Crowder type stuff, and they/we read many meditations as a body together.

Aaron Nevquist was here for many years, and he is a Psalmist at heart. He writes both simple and profound lyrics, and loves to include men and women sections that first start out solo and eventually overlap.

Some favorite lyrics from him:

"We don't have to say

'Come and fill this place'

We don't have to pray

'Will you show your face?'

We don't have to move

into a holy space

We don't have to say

'Come into this place'

Because you're already here you're already here you're already here you're already here

Open up our eyes

The truth is all around

Your fingerprinted skies

Your holy muddy ground.

We want to walk beside

Your ever present care

We cannot be alone

You're always everywhere

Because you're already here you're already here you're already here you're already here"

or, from "Changed"

"We have been changed, now we're gonna be a blessing

We have been loved, now we're gonna bring love

We've been invited, we're going to share the invitation

We have been changed to bring change, to bring change

We have been changed to bring change, to bring change

Thank you for this new life! Thank you for the invitation!"

or, at the same time, the opening line is both cheesy and profound, but I love "Love can change the world" --

"Bridges are more beautiful than bombs are

Bridges are more beautiful than bombs

Listening is louder than a lecture

Listening is louder than a shout

But love, love can change the world

Oh do we still believe that love,

Love can change the world...

God is love our God is love and

Love. Can. Change. The. World.

An open hand is stronger than a fist is.

An open hand is stronger than a fist.

Wonder is more valuable than Wall Street

Wonder is more valuable than gold.

But love, love can change the world

Oh do we still believe that love,

Love can change the world...

God is love our God is love and

Love. Can. Change. The. World.

So may we never stop this dreaming of a better world.

May we never stop believing in the impossible.

God is love... God is love..."

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that since Aaron had many years to write such wonderful worship songs, Troy has also been writing since he left, and one of his songs brought me to tears just last week.

From Troy Hatfield's "Matchless" --

"Long before our time began

Long before I was

Heaven rang, creation rang

The matchlessness of God

Majesty unspeakable

We boldly bless Your name

In awe of love -- in awe of grace

The God, the man who came

Praise to the constantly unchanging

You were

You are

And you will be!

God even though immutable

Revealing still today

The story moves, our hearts still prove

Significant in ways

We praise the constantly unchanging

You were

You are

And you will be!"

Typically it is a normal praise band that plays the tunes, you know, the rock setup: guitar, bass, drums, acoustic, and sometimes a keyboard and/or percussion instruments. But every once in a while they experiment, and man oh man, this is fun. "Funk Sunday" as I like to call it, was the best! They turned a Blondie song into one of our praise tunes, and even had that "Roller Coaster" tune turned into "Ancient of Days." Sounds strange I know, but it worked!

Or a tuba and a banjo might show up. Or it might be horn Sunday, with a thirty-player horn section kicking off the service with the theme from "Rocky."

One day last Easter they experimented, and I'm pretty sure one of the percussion players was playing a toilet lid.

Last week they played that "You are God in Heaven and here am I on earth... So I stand in awe of you..." You know the song? I think it is Matt Redman. They took the riff and used some old Zeppelin riff in its place. It was wonderful. I don't know the name of the Zeppelin tune, but you'd know it if you heard it.

Having that kind of freedom, the kind that says "Locate the beauty wherever it is, and then subvert it for the Kingdom..." I love love love it.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Forgive me for continuing in my rant. But have you noticed how on here everyone has like 20 bands they are convinced are the best ever? It's all about Pedro the Lion and Maria McKee and Sam Phillips and Daniel Amos... Oh yeah, and of course there's Bill Mallonee and Mark Heard, who is now a saint. These are just examples. Many more: Cockburn, innocence mission, OtR, T Bone Burnett, Rich Mullins.

Don't get me wrong. I really like a lot of these bands. A LOT. But why the crazy insistence that all the really COOL people listen to these "subversively Christian" bands? How about the reality that Sara Groves is a really great singer and writer? Can I get banned for saying I like tobyMac?

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How about the reality that Sara Groves is a really great singer and writer? Can I get banned for saying I like tobyMac?

Heh, don't worry buddy, we all go through hard times. When I was a kid, I liked The Imperials, Sweet Comfort Band, and <GASP!> PETRA :)

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I confess to liking a tobyMac song or two. :) I have one friend who claims his newest album is one of the most inspirational CDs she's ever listened to-- the last time I talked to her about it, she said she had listened to it in the car on a thirty-minute trip and ended up having a completely different (and better) day than she had been having, just because of the joyful reminder of God's love for her.

And Sara Groves! I had nearly forgotten. Excellent, excellent songwriter. Some of her stuff used to get a lot of playtime in my apartment, between me and my three roommates.

Matt, I'm not discounting a Sacred Harp experience. :) I really will have to give it a try. I think that there's definitely something to be said for a balanced mix, as well as knowing a preference.

stef, are there recorded versions of those songs available anywhere?

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stef, are there recorded versions of those songs available anywhere?

Yes. You can listen to the songs from "Worship in Every Direction" here. The title is a spin on some of the core teachings of the church, which offer the different "directions" we should be living in as a faith-based community.

[OUTWARD] [bACKWARD] [iNWARD] [WITHWARD] [FORWARD] [uPWARD]

If you scroll down to the bottom, you can select the songs for each one of these directions. "Love can change the world" and "Changed" are in the "Outward" section, which is the symbol of two arrows, one going to the left and the other to the right.

Or you can buy the double disc, which has a great insert booklet with all the lyrics here.

[Edit] The other two songs I mentioned I am not sure if they are available. Trying googling Aaron Niequist for the one, it might be on his new CD, not sure... I would check it for you but I have to go loyally watch my Cubbies lose tonight's big adventure in SF.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Then why, pray tell, are they up there? On a stage? In front of people? There is something to be said of the old model of placing the choir behind the congregation. While I certainly don't know the hearts of folks doing this, I know where the dangers lie. For years, I played guitar in front of a church, etc. I don't blame the musicians for the existence of that stage, but would urge music ministers to get musicians off of them. They don't need to be there.

FWIW, one of the reasons I ended up at the church I'm at in Nashville is because the band is off to the right of the stage, on the floor, where the attention is not on them. And there aren't any fancy light shows or anything. Also, because a lot of us in the bands or in the church are professional musicians, we don't have "special music" as a regular part of the services, because we don't want it to be just another place where we perform and people strive to get to be the one up front, the one everyone focuses on. In the 2+ years I've been there, we've only had special music once, when Andrew Peterson sang a song of his that went along with the message.

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Forgive me for continuing in my rant. But have you noticed how on here everyone has like 20 bands they are convinced are the best ever? It's all about Pedro the Lion and Maria McKee and Sam Phillips and Daniel Amos... Oh yeah, and of course there's Bill Mallonee and Mark Heard, who is now a saint.

Not just a saint, an Exalted Extra-Shiny Supersaint. Get with the program.

These are just examples. Many more: Cockburn, innocence mission, OtR, T Bone Burnett, Rich Mullins.

You're objecting to what? People listing artists they like? That was the original purpose of this thread, after all. And you named a few that you like. So what?

Don't get me wrong. I really like a lot of these bands. A LOT. But why the crazy insistence that all the really COOL people listen to these "subversively Christian" bands? How about the reality that Sara Groves is a really great singer and writer? Can I get banned for saying I like tobyMac?

Ah, I see. You've got the impression that everyone on the board likes the same 20 bands. Well, it ain't true. I'm the biggest Mark Heard supporter on the board by far. I don't know what's wrong with everyone else. I can't stand Pedro the Lion, and so far I haven't found anyone else here with the erudition and intelligence to share my affection for all things Flanders & Swann.

Or you could say that most people on the board are looking for artistic excellence, and since only 20 Christian bands/artists in history have ever bothered to pursue artistic excellence, then it's no coincidence that we all like those bands. :P

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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I go to a church where the musicians are on-stage, and they've got some incredibly talented people up there. But they're not "big names" and not really known as musicians outside of the church, as far as I know (except maybe to other people in other churches). If anything ever bothers me about the music, it's the actual selection of the songs and it's not been the actual people. Perhaps my church has been blessed with people who are good at not being attention-consuming or distracting, but I don't have a problem with it. I've been in places where it has been a problem, but generally, where I go isn't one of them (though youth group has occasionally been a different matter).

There's something to be said with getting musicians out of sight, out of the easy line of focus, so to speak. I think there's also something to be said for people using God-given gifts, visibly, to honor Him. God is not limited by us in the ways He choses to speak to us, I think, but can be by our reception of that (and this isn't to say that I'm accusing anyone here of not being receptive enough; I know it could sound like that and I really, really don't want it to). I know music ministers who have just come off the wrong way as people, not as musicians-- those who would be difficult to talk to or get along with as Christians, not just worship leaders. And I say this not as a judgment of their character, but perhaps more as a weighing of the "fruit." But I've also known music minsters who are some of the most consistently dedicated-to-their-craft-but-to-God-first, humble, nice people.

Unfortunately, not everyone in a congregation will appreciate music the same way-- especially if it's a large congregation, and even more so if it's that in a small, more rural area, where there aren't more options for church. But I do know that stage aside, songs that personally call one to worship aside, there is definitely something to be said for corporate worship. There is a sense of community and joy in singing together, and there are many, many ways to do that. Some people actually do connect through songs that sound more like pop, and though I might never really appreciate that, I can appreciate order. My church manages to do a mix of newer contemporary and older hymns. Perhaps I've been spoiled.

I do know, however, that singers have, biblically, been important to the church and to the temples. Also, the very act of singing and calling to mind the greatness of God. And, knowing that our God is a God of peace and order, not of chaos, makes me appreciate the structure at my church even if I don't always appreciate the song-choice. Some places, there are other options. I'm not against that. I'm not "married," either, to what my church does. But it's here, it's the body I belong to. There are people who thrive in that sort of worship environment, perhaps more for personality than anything else. And there are people who are called to be music ministers, and I don't consider it a sin or an attempt to steal glory or praise that belongs to God for them to stand on a stage. If it makes sense for the space available, if it's what people are going to be able to most comfortably be led with (and there is not, I do not think, a problem in the leading itself, if it's in the right direction; thus, my not-chaos point), then it can work and it can work well.

Same for special music. Some people "sing to the glory of God" and "feel His pleasure" the way I'm sure Eric Liddell did when he ran. And they can do so, from a stage, in a way that makes other people in a crowd begin to also cry out praise and stand up, or simply sit and marvel at the "work" of God's hands and mind, in the talent of another human.

Yes, I do admit that there are some places in which it has become more of a lifeless human show. I would venture to say that these are also the same places where, perhaps, sermons are crafted to not offend and classes are more for the sense of "rightness" than challenge or study. There are some places. But not everywhere.

I'm glad that that works at your church, Stephen, but I know that moving people off the stage at this point would be more of a distraction at my church (and please don't take this to mean that my entire post was directed at you; it was just a thought :) ).

The funny thing about this is, of the people I know, I'm probably one of the least likely people at my church to speak in defense of the Christian "stage," or Christian pop-worship. But it is something I'm honestly in agreement with, in a lot of places, just as much as I'm against it in others. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with keeping the vast field of creative musical art out of the sanctuary. And perhaps that's switching even more to an entirely different topic.

Also, slightly different note, I remembered another song I find myself singing, rather often. It's an obscure little song called "I Will Follow" that was on a "Kidz Walk" CD I had years and years ago, and I haven't been able to find it again since.

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stef wrote:

: And the musicians

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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