Over the past few years, I have seen many articles written about churches and what churches ought to do to get with it or what churches need to quit doing to get with it. One of the most controversial issues has been about the singing/praise part of church service. I certainly have joined the fray with my facebook comments. I have aggravated some and encouraged others. I definitely have put my opinions out there.
Many want to have a loud, hand-clapping, hand-raising, swaying experience much like when they attended rock concerts when they were young. They carry on about attracting the young and being real and on fire and with it.
On the other side are the ones who want only traditional hymns which tell a story or teach a lesson. In other words, singing and praise with hands lowered, a slower tempo, and an overall more serious feel to the church service. This group espouses the idea that all the loud noise and repetitive phrases are distracting and not true worship.
The loud group espouses the idea that the young want to be in an environment where the band members all sport tattoos and wear modern clothing. The young want to fit in. They claim that no one ever left the church because it was too loud, but many had because it was too quiet. This group feels that they are authentic and really worshipping.
I grew up in a quiet church. No clapping. No swaying. In fact, we made fun of those who did raise their hands and clap. We wondered where in the world they had been raised to act like that in church. And we were OK to think those things because we were in the “right” church.
Now, I attend a church full of tattooed young people pounding out the rhythm on drums and guitars and singing at the top of their voices. I raise my hands and for a while I played drums on the stage every Sunday morning. I loved it. I have attended a church where the music evolved into a bluegrass revolution every week with the crowd clapping along. I loved it.
I love music. I love loud rhythms. I don’t mind the repetitive phrases because I can always close my eyes and pray until they quit singing. I also love old hymns sung accapella. When I do my dishes or work around the house I find that I hum the old hymns while I work. When I quilt I listen to the hand-clapping, ear-banging versions of church tunes and sometimes I revert to Neil Diamond or John Denver. They don’t sing church songs, but I like their music.
My concern with the church musical issue is not that it is an issue – I am a believer in good, mind-bending issues – but rather that it has almost become an either/or issue and it is going to directly affect me in the future. I like old hymns and I like them to be sung with no instruments. I believe there is a time and a place for this type of music. I like the new, repetitive, rock concert style music and I believe there is a place for this type of music.
My worry is selfish I know, but I worry about who in the world will sing at my funeral. I have traditional hymns picked out. My husband knows which ones. Hopefully, I won’t need them for a while, but I am thinking with all this shift in church music there won’t be anyone who knows how to sing the hymns that I want. I know I shouldn’t worry because, truthfully, I won’t actually be there, but I do think about it now and then.
I really, really like some of the old songs but perhaps they are more comforting for me here, now, rather than in the distant future. Perhaps I should go out with pounding drums and cymbal crashes. It might reflect my life better than solemn hymns sung with fervor. At any rate, there might not be any singers of old hymns left on the day I go.
I thought it might be wonderful to have the Gaither’s sing at my funeral, but I am not certain that they will still be here on that day. They might have already auditioned for someone with higher authority. I thought that we – the funeral planners actually – might use CD’s of my favorite singers but quickly realized that CD’s might have gone the way of the 8 track and my current favorites won’t be able to be played.
And so, I have decided not to worry about the church music debate. I like all kinds of church music. On the day I depart I hope there is music playing behind me and music welcoming me to come on in. And if I am lucky, maybe I can catch a glimpse of the Gaither’s when I get there.