Here is some feedback I've been getting from my series on congregational singing. The first comes from a friend who recently started attending a new church:
One of the things that I have loved about WOL from the start is when we all sing together at the meeting house. The first year we were there, I was bowled over. I had never heard people sing like that before. With such fervor and obvious delight. It was filling. Although we sang a mixture of choruses and hymns at my old church, there were times when I was just bursting to sing out, but kept it all in. We were a church of "quiet" singers. Not that I doubted the sincerity of the singers - it just wasn't a demonstrative church.
The church we attend now has a fabulous worship leader. She is an excellent piano player, has a great voice, does a phenomenal job directing the choir, directs the worship band and above all is always Christ centered. She punctuates the songs we sing with encouragement and quoting of Scripture. Her basis for everything she does is the Bible. She puts tremendous effort into choosing the right songs and the right mix. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job and she is completely humble.
She is always reminding us (the choir) that we are there to help lead the congregation in worship and to do so by example - singing out with joy. She in no way considers anything we do a performance. We have a time of prayer every choir rehearsal.
When I stand in front and look out over the congregation while we're all singing together - I actually can't adequately describe the feeling. People who are definitely senior citizens, are singing right along with every contemporary chorus as well as the hymns. Some of them are raising hands in the air. We clap during some of the praise songs. Wow, we rarely did that in our other church. Sometimes we all (choir and congregation) clap after we sing - not for each other, but as an expression of our worship to God.
This comes from a pastor who has been wrestling with the issues I raised in my series:
I’ve been asking myself recently this question: “Are we giving God what He deserves?” Or to say it another way, “God deserves better than I’m giving Him.”
One other thought. It seems to me that the people up front who are musical enjoy doing harmony and other cool-sounding things – the problem for non musical people like me is I don’t know which voice to follow so I often drop out.
We’ve also been addressing the repetitious nature of much of the music – especially how choruses (and even hymns) just keep going over and over the same words. Sometimes I wonder if we should sing less and have more times for meditation, confession, Scripture reading, etc.
Here's a comment from someone who attends small country church:
I enjoyed your article a lot, even though our church is very small and has no "staff". We have our Pastor and 2 elder/deacons. The pianist is anyone that is there and can play. Nothing is really planned. We sing whatever anyone requests.
A young father reflects on the musical heritage that now reaches a fourth generation:
I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is crucial to our worship service. Sometimes I think that I was drawn to the Methodist Church in part because it was founded by musicians. The rich musical heritage is a source of great joy and comfort.
There are times when we sing certain hymns today that I would swear I can hear my Grandmother’s soaring soprano voice right beside me -- and she’s been gone for 35 years!
Now I’m a Dad with two very enthusiastic young singers! They might not always be exactly in tune and the younger just sings "Hallelujah!" over and over, but their energy and sheer volume bode well for the ongoing tradition of congregational singing. And I know the Wesley brothers and my Grandmother are certainly singing right along with them.
A man who has been a worship leader himself describes what happens at his church:
The worship pastor (who leads with acoustic guitar, and is backed up by different, excellent bands) is a genuine leader of the congregation, utilizes a good progression of theme, no distractions, good pace and transition from song to song. And every single week, at some point in some song, he brings the instruments all the way down for at least one verse of a cappella singing, and the congregation (of about 1,000 per service) is there. You can even sing in harmony (which I of course do). The resonance of the voices together is indeed a “sweet savor” and pleasing aroma to the Lord.
Finally, we have this good report of a church that blends music from many different cultural backgrounds:
In my church, a Lutheran congregation, we sing multi-cultural hymns. Korean, Peruvian, and Filipino, to name few. And everyone is involved! The member of the choir pounds on a bongo drum, accompanied by the choir director on the organ. I consider myself blessed to belong to a fellowship where God is praised in song! By everyone in the sanctuary!
I am grateful for everyone who took the time to make comments. It demonstrates that good congregational singing is possible today when the leaders and the people in the pews have a heart to see it happen.
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About Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 27 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 37 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law--Leah and Vanessa, and two grandsons--Knox and Eli. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
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