Choral Music and the Gospel

I'm part of a city centre church that celebrates choral excellence. I enjoy singing in one of the choirs and it's fun - but what is the point?

It's said that if you want to know what is important to an organisation, look at how it spends its (discretionary) time and money. Our church spends lots of time and money on music and bells.

I am not sure how what we do relates to the gospel (good news to the poor, release to the captives etc)

Cheers

Asher
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Comments

  • Well, if the experience of offering beautiful music to the God who made heaven and earth, including everything required for that to happen, and the capacity of many people to receive that as a means of connecting to the Creator, doesn't demonstrate how this connects to the purpose of the gospel, nothing will.

    Not everything that a church does has to be doctrinal, didacticc; some of it is numinous. It also allows you and your fellow musicians to offer your skills back to their source, and in the process enrich the lives of many people. That is the element I enjoy myself, on the occasions I get to do it. It's far more than fun - it's a vital part of my life of faith, both when offering my skills myself and when particpating in services when others' skills are offered.

    There is a clear attempt to decry and trivialise this kind of worship and the associated skills and tradition going on with the Church of England, as a side-effect of the HTB franchising process. It's deeply depressing to find it being belittled from within.
  • asherasher Shipmate
    'It's deeply depressing to find it being belittled from within.'

    WTF?

    I just reread my OP, and I just don't get this comment from you that I am belittling the choral tradition of the CofE.

    You and I share an interest and passion. We spend our time in similar way in this instance.

    Why the shut down?

    Asher



  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yesterday I visited my local cathedral and was admiring the lovely Easter cross and garden there. And suddenly a visiting choir formed up in front of it and sang a cappello worship songs in beautiful harmonies. It was like listening to an angelic choir. And it made my day.

    A lot of people understand their faith on the basis of the hymns that they sing so it very much relates to the gospel. And St Augustine said that 'he who sings prays twice.'
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    Regarding the OP it doesn't have to be one or the other, does it? But the gospel imperative to care shouldn't be excluded. I have just started to serve a church which could be described as a choir with a church attached, and while I intend to encourage and support the choir, I also intend to stir up the church, including the choir, to love and good deeds. It may take some stirring.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Well, if the experience of offering beautiful music to the God who made heaven and earth, including everything required for that to happen, and the capacity of many people to receive that as a means of connecting to the Creator, doesn't demonstrate how this connects to the purpose of the gospel, nothing will.
    This.

    Rublev wrote: »
    And St Augustine said that 'he who sings prays twice.'
    It’s a lovely phrase. But apparently, it doesn’t actually appear in anything St. Augustine wrote, nor does it seem to have been quoted before the mid-20th C.

  • Is there a danger that an over-preoccupation with the "performance" side of worship - whether that be choral excellence, modern worship music or even Quaker mindfulness - runs the danger of turning our church into an essentially self-centred and narcissistic organisation? Indeed, isn't that a danger for any church? I think the Charity Commission - who quite rightly judge charities by the extent of their Public Benefit - might have something to say about that! (Yes, I know that both the musical traditions I've mentioned cost real money, while the Quaker mindfulness doesn't!)
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    asher wrote: »
    'It's deeply depressing to find it being belittled from within.'

    WTF?

    I just reread my OP, and I just don't get this comment from you that I am belittling the choral tradition of the CofE.

    You and I share an interest and passion. We spend our time in similar way in this instance.

    Why the shut down?

    Asher



    I may have read it wrong, but I got the idea that Thunderbunk meant the 'within' of the certain church traditions eg, HTB, which he refers to. It looks more as if he's criticising how 'the Church' itself belittles the potential of certain kinds of music and musicians by its prioritising flashier, or more contemporary stuff, like the HTB 'franchise'. I didn't get that he was saying you were belittling it, specifically? But I could've read it wrong.
  • The question though isn't about what kind of music is "best". The OPer and Thunderbunk agree on that. The question is about whether the church is spending too much energy and money on that, and too little on serving the community.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited April 27
    @Nick Tamen

    I was intrigued enough to look this up and this quote is an abridged version of his commentary on Psalm 73: 1 - 'For he that sings praise, not only praises but praises with gladness; he that sings praise, not only sings but also loves him of whom he sings.'

    St Paul was keen to encourage Christians to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God (Col 3: 16). I think a choir is a great asset to the ministry and mission of a church.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 27
    But only to the folk who actually come inside and hear it ...

    How can choirs (which I like and value BTW) be "good news to the poor" unless (1) they put on concerts which raise funds for charities such as Shelter; (2) they offer to brighten up poor peoples' lives by going into homeless hostels and the like; (3) they run projects like "El Sistema" in deprived areas?
  • asherasher Shipmate
    The question though isn't about what kind of music is "best". The OPer and Thunderbunk agree on that. The question is about whether the church is spending too much energy and money on that, and too little on serving the community.

    This.

    And other things too. Where the pursuit of excellence can result in people's value being located in their musical capital. Where opportunities to sing in a church choir is restricted to those with a (high level of) musical education. Where the choral scholars never seem to come from state schools. Where the music is the end, not the worship....
  • asherasher Shipmate
    Anselmina wrote: »
    asher wrote: »
    'It's deeply depressing to find it being belittled from within.'

    WTF?

    I just reread my OP, and I just don't get this comment from you that I am belittling the choral tradition of the CofE.

    You and I share an interest and passion. We spend our time in similar way in this instance.

    Why the shut down?

    Asher



    I may have read it wrong, but I got the idea that Thunderbunk meant the 'within' of the certain church traditions eg, HTB, which he refers to. It looks more as if he's criticising how 'the Church' itself belittles the potential of certain kinds of music and musicians by its prioritising flashier, or more contemporary stuff, like the HTB 'franchise'. I didn't get that he was saying you were belittling it, specifically? But I could've read it wrong.

    Thanks for that. @ThunderBunk - sorry for misreading you.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The church I'm in is mainly elderly ladies who come along on a Sunday to enjoy a bit of a sing in the choir. That's where they're at. So I decided to feature it. I resourced the church with more hymn books. I preach a lot of sermons about hymns. The Lent course was on the hymns of Cecil Francis Alexander. You have to work within the existing culture of a church, not against it. And music adds an extra dimension to worship and spirituality. A good choir can be a draw to people looking for a church service. It can also be missional in going out to sing at services in care homes and hospitals.
  • I posted in haste and in deep frustration and some anger, but you haven't entirely misread me. I did read your original post as an attack on a tradition which I hold dear, @asher, and as you clearly practice it, yes, it seemed to me that if those who practice it attack it as a load of nonsense, I don't see much hope of retaining it as the vital part of the life of the church that I see it as being. Let me set out why, in the form of a number of points and questions. (you may need some kind of refreshment and/or artificial stimulant at some point in this).

    Nothing that happens during a service directly affects social justice - very few people have ever been fed, clothed or released from prison during a church service. This is equally true of all traditions, and of all forms of worship. Are you saying that God is more satisfied with tedious mediocrity than with the kind of excellence that liturgical choirs and musicians strive for? The attainment of that excellence doesn't strike me as essential, but striving for it does. God, as a creator, gives us gifts extravagantly, and an equal extravagance strikes me as appropriate in our response. Christ took the side of the woman breaking the jar of nard over his feet and wiping its contents from them with his hair; he did not take the part of the person suggesting that that jar could be sold and the money used to feed the poor. The point of a church service, to my mind is to approach God and offer ourselves in his service, and to be nourished for that service as the reciprocal to that approach. In that context, I have no compunction in suggesting that striving for excellence in the life of the church is the equivalent of that action of extravagant generosity, in response to the overwhelming generosity of God.

    I can see some merit in your point about the people who take part, but we will always be self-selecting, and again, I see no greater merit in mediocrity than in excellence. If those are the people with the skills, let them come forward, providing always that a musical education is available to those with the talent to make use of it. There are all sorts of problems with musical education and the provision of suitable facilities for practicing, but I would vehemently challenge the idea that these problems are a good reason for abandoning the whole tradition of Western church music, and making doctrinal dirges mandatory.

    This would fulfil the fantasies of far too many within the church, for my mind, especially the bureaucratically minded non-entities with whom the House of Bishops is stuffed. Let them manage each other out of existence, not one of the main sources of beauty in the life of the church.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    @Nick Tamen

    I was intrigued enough to look this up and this quote is an abridged version of his commentary on Psalm 73: 1 - 'For he that sings praise, not only praises but praises with gladness; he that sings praise, not only sings but also loves him of whom he sings.'
    Yes, to the degree that sentiment can be attributed to St. Augustine, that passage seems to be the source—at least it’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites to.

    But “He who sings prays twice” can’t really be called an abridged version of the more complete quote. The quote says nothing about praying, or about doing anything twice; it talks about praise, gladness and love. At most, it is as gloss or riff on what Augustine wrote.

  • @ Rublev: That all sounds excellent, but I think your church sounds very different to Asher's.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    A church which is focused upon its choir and its bells sounds just like mine. Every church plays to its own particular strengths in ministry. But yes, it is a very important question as to how you can ensure that those strengths primarily glorify God and how you can develop the mission of the church to really serve its local community. The music is not meant to be an end in itself. It's beauty should be missional in offering praise to God and transformation to people. I'm going to think some more about missional music.
  • Please do! Thanks.
  • BabyWombatBabyWombat Shipmate
    I came into TEC because of music (all in NYC): Evensong with their excellent choir at St. Barts; Organ recital preceding Evensong & Benediction at St. Mary the Virgin; the midnight organ recitals played by Calvin Hampton (can’t recall which church they were in). At least this one poor soul was called into deeper faith through church music done well. And deeper faith can (not always, but can) lead to an increase in charity of all kinds to others with their many differing needs. Music drew me in, good preaching, scripture study, outreach programs sent me out into the world to serve. Was there a direct, measurable correlation? No. But can grace be measured, or charity weighed either?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Maybe I don't have to think any more BabyWombat. That's a beautiful answer!
  • rhubarbrhubarb Shipmate
    We all have different gifts which can be used to the glory of God and to spread the Gospel. My service is music, for others it is preaching, social work, fund raising, teaching etc. I know that there are some people who attend church because of the music and surely this is a way of bringing the Gospel to them. I find that music fills me spiritually and that there is a certain emptiness in a service that lacks music. I thank God for the gift of music and always try to offer my very best to the Lord using the gift He has given me, whether in playing the organ or in singing.
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    Choral music doesn’t have to be elitist and it doesn’t have to be limited to the privately educated.
    I went to a very average comprehensive school in South Wales, but we were lucky enough to have a gifted music teacher with strong socialist principles, who believed that anyone who wanted to join the choir should be given the opportunity to learn to read music and join in as best they could.
  • BabyWombatBabyWombat Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    Maybe I don't have to think any more BabyWombat. That's a beautiful answer!

    I don't mean to suggest that. Only that I believe that God calls us, sends us and nurtures us in different ways. Music, thinking, contemplation, social action, scrubbing the floors, preaching a sermon, refuting a sermon -- so many more ways that God can use, and I'm sure God has many more up the sleeve. IMHO all those ways are God's joyful energy flowing into our lives, God's looking upon all that was made and saying "it is good".

  • At the risk of being carted off to the stake, I confess that I no longer have a great love for anglican-style Choral Evensong (however beautifully rendered). Tedious, old-fashioned, and far too miserable re sinning...... :grimace:

    I find a simpler service e.g a form of contemporary-language Vespers (the Lutherans do it well, even if they sometimes double the length of the service by introducing Herr Bach) rather more conducive to prayer, but this is, of course, purely subjective, and YMMV.

    Or, IOW, by all means use music/singing. but keep it congregational (mostly) and simple......

  • I suspect that the Messrs. Wesley might agree with you there ...

    To return to the OP, is there a way in which churches can have a great musical tradition and use that to somehow serve the wider social aspects of the Gospel (outside the church building)?
  • At the risk of being carted off to the stake, I confess that I no longer have a great love for anglican-style Choral Evensong (however beautifully rendered). Tedious, old-fashioned, and far too miserable re sinning...... :grimace:

    I find a simpler service e.g a form of contemporary-language Vespers (the Lutherans do it well, even if they sometimes double the length of the service by introducing Herr Bach) rather more conducive to prayer, but this is, of course, purely subjective, and YMMV.

    Or, IOW, by all means use music/singing. but keep it congregational (mostly) and simple......

    Horses for courses. You've just consigned a great deal of skill, dedication and tradition into the dustbin, and I will not let that pass without protest. Have your vespers, and sometimes I will want to join you, but less contempt if you don't mind awfully, for the skill and beauty required for a good choral evensong.

    On the other hand, there should be a royalty fee of at least £1000 per performance for Balfour Gardener's Evening Hymn and Stanford's B flat Mag & Nunc. They have become cliches, in my observation, and thus lost their power to point beyond themselves. Except when they haven't, I suppoe.
  • roybartroybart Shipmate
    I am not unfamiliar with the quality church music culture of Manhattan churches. I know a number of people like Baby Wombat, who enter for the music but stay to participate in the larger Christian mission. I also know people who go for the high quality concerts, get spiritual enrichment from that, and go no further. Many participate largely for the chance to perform this music. Some freelance musicians just want to work and depend on the extra money. And, crucially, some churches would have a hard time surviving without their reputations for fine music.

    What is wrong with that?

    There are of course some ethical ambiguities in this system. But there are ways to address this. Rublev's program seems a fine example of how to proceed.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    Today for the second Saturday in a row I finished my stint in the sacristy by polishing a thurible. This is in my parish church where I now worship. This is not my tradition and I do have an allergy to something often in incense though not incense itself. Yet I gladly clean the thurible and see it as part of my contribution to the congregation's mission.

    We are a city centre parish with a reasonably high level of poverty within the parish. As a congregation, the church has always tried to have beauty and magnificence around in worship in the Parish. This included times when it was surrounded by slums. Some of this has drawn people who like that sort of thing but more importantly, but it does two things
    1. It everyone who comes through the parish access to a place of beauty and quiet (it is open a lot of the day time and we seek ways to extend it)
    2. It hints at wonder and joy that is part of the divine worship and suggests God is worth worshipping
    We do engage in other ways with the community including soup runs and have a church-sponsored mental health charity based next door in the former church rooms but this perhaps is our most open evangelical action. So I will support the congregation in doing that. It also changes the dynamic between those who come in at our door asking for help. They often settle down to pray instead.

    Let us be clear it is a good thing to give a starving person bread or to clothe a naked person but until we see them as an image of Christ we are just another institution doing good works. Beauty does not meet a basic need but to invite people to join in an action of beauty says something very deep about their humanity. Or maybe I have that wrong, maybe this is the most basic need after, going back to my tradition, as the Westminster Confession says
    Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
  • Cathscats wrote: »
    Regarding the OP it doesn't have to be one or the other, does it? But the gospel imperative to care shouldn't be excluded. I have just started to serve a church which could be described as a choir with a church attached, and while I intend to encourage and support the choir, I also intend to stir up the church, including the choir, to love and good deeds. It may take some stirring.

    I hope you'll take some time to find out what is going on before you commence stirring. Quite apart from anything else, members of the choir will be the people who attend church the most, and you're also likely to find that they'll be the first to volunteer for other stuff, such as delivering magazines, helping with sales and fetes, etc. And when it comes to "occasional" worshippers you may find it is choir partners/ parents who make up these numbers too.

    At our own place the choir provides 75% of the ministers of the eucharist, 80% of fete stallholders; 100% of the volunteer caterers, 100% of the after-church coffee rota, 90% of the magazine deliverers, 100% of people who run confirmation classes, 95% of the regulars at churchyard working parties. To be blunt, without the choir our place would fall apart. And yet whenever there is some urgent need - someone needs emergency accommodation, the local food bank puts out a frantic appeal, etc - it is choir members who are first to come forward.

    Just saying...
  • LeafLeaf Shipmate
    When I read the comments about choral music, it reminds me of others who have laboured to bring beauty to the life of the church: mosaicists, for example. It grieves me mildly that mosaic art is no longer thought integral to the life of the church, although it had been a highly valued form for centuries. But art forms pass in popularity.

    So do service delivery mechanisms. Feeding the poor used to involve leaving the margins of fields for gleaning, or bringing extra produce to the church for distribution. Those forms have also largely passed, in industrialized places.

    How we worship and serve will always change in the course of history. But I'm pretty sure that we're called to do both as followers of Jesus. I'm also sure that there is defensiveness (and sometimes superiority) around these aspects of discipleship and their forms. It's the embattled defensiveness and the judgmental superiority that truly grieve me... and you can find those in both service and worship.
  • A choir can function as a church within a church. It has something it does together (music), and the music can be a means of worship and opportunity to study/reflect on the word. The choir members may well form a pastoral fellowship group. As a group, they can take the good news outside by walking outside and singing it, or they can work with the community based on the music they make (eg singing workshops - very accessible, no fancy equipment needed to sing and it is a good way to bring people together). Music is the means - the end depends on the intention with which it is done.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    I find that choral music of all kinds adds to worship. I understand the arguments about performance, and worshiping worship, and alternative uses of resources.

    But worship is an offering. I think Jesus pointed clearly to the acceptability of such offerings, despite Judas's criticism, when reflecting on the woman who anointed his feet with expensive perfume.

    Much depends on the heart of those making the offering. For example, when we sing "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain", is it just about the dramatic beauty of the music? Or do the words and music represent a conscious offering of thankfulness to God?

    That's a question only the singers can answer. It is not our place to judge their sincerity, any more than it was Judas's place to point the critical finger.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Thunderbunk - I enjoy the church music that you do (alongside other types), but i think it's unfair to accuse those with different tastes of 'consigning tradition to the dustbin'. The skill and dedication of any musician can be appreciated without there being any obligation to enjoy that music. Everybody has a different personal preference for church music, and there's nothing wrong with that. I think you are being too defensive towards people who are mostly on your side. There is no right or wrong type of church music as long as it's done in sincere worship of God, just preferences.

    What Aravis describes, especially with education cuts, is now sadly unusual. Like it or not, traditional choral music (and classical music generally) is most definitely nowadays something that excludes many. If churches are serious about keeping choral music they must get serious about widening participation. Honestly I enjoy choral music, but the snobbery and lack of self-awareness is very offputting.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited April 27
    Absolutely. Neither types of snobbery (the classicists v the contemporary or the other way round) are particularly edifying.

    A bit of personal testimony. As an 11 year old choirboy, singing the classical sacred oratorios, I was away of the technical challenges of learning the music, conscious of the hard work in advance of performances and also of the dramatic beauty of the music. It awakened my aesthetic sense without me being aware of it. But I was dimly aware that there was more going on. The music itself was an evangel, doing something to open up my awareness to a greater Something. I don't think my experience was unique. It's what C S Lewis calls the awareness of the numinous, moving, transcendental, almost but not quite in our grasp.

    I think great music can do that. But I would not rule out the possibility of contemporary music working in the same way.

    Perhaps some folks are deaf to the spiritual power of the classic genre and some to the spiritual power of the contemporary genre? I can say here for example that I find the contemporary song 'Oceans' to be spiritually enlightening and moving and the experience of the numinous feels very similar to singing "Worthy is the Lamb/Amen" from Messiah. That may seem very strange to some of you, but it is so.
  • You are talking about one generation. Your accusations are deeply offensive, as is your patronising attitude. I am well aware of the issues involved, but I am also aware of the fact that there are many people who are only kept in touch with their faith and the church by the numinous connection created by music, and rely on the dedication and commitment of church musicians to keep this going. You seem to think that your political agenda, which for the most part I share, has to be allowed to determine everything about the present and the future. This is not true. Of course there are complications, but no excellence happens without dedication. My point that it's not a matter of unearned privilege. The surrounding politics are frequently poisonous but that does not devalue the music itself or make your patronising, offensive remarks any more accurate.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Sorry, I'm very confused here. Who is making accusations? Which generation is being talked about? What political agenda? I simply mentioned that given education cuts, state school music lessons do not look like those that Aravis encountered anymore. It's just an unfortunate fact - so now perhaps churches can get involved in widening participation. My music lessons at school were mostly about crowd control and in large class sizes that's going to be true for a lot of schools. Naturally this will have an impact on how pupils understand and appreciate music, as will poorer schools not being able to have orchestra equipment etc. I'm not sure how pointing this out is having an agenda.

    I really don't think I or anyone else have said anything that warrants getting so personal. It would help a lot if you could quote parts of a comment you're replying to, because I genuinely don't see any relation between my comment and your response.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited April 27
    Thunderbunk

    I'm not sure if your post was addressed to me or Pomona. I thought my post made it clear that in my own experience the awareness of the numinous may be helped by both the classical repertoire and the contemporary repertoire.

    There is indeed an issue of access in traditional church music. Personally I think those who dismiss it are turning their back on a rich resource. Losing out. People who are deaf to the repertoire, or deaf to classical drama or literature, may indeed be demonstrating ignorance, or arrogance or snobbery.

    But that can work in both directions. Personally, being able to "see through both windows" I do not wish to throw stones at either.

    Nor do I wish to patronise any Shipmate. We all have blind spots.
  • In all this debate we seem to have got fixated on musical styles and lost the original point of the thread, which is whether churches can spend too much energy and resources on music (or, indeed, anything "internal") and too little on practical aspects of the Gospel which reach out into society.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I think the answer to that is a clear yes, regardless of the style involved (in terms of Quakers, is 'nothing' a style? I suppose there's an element of apophatic worship there!).

    It's worth saying that while I haven't seen people be clothed or released from prison during a church service, I think churches with decent refreshments before and/or after a service, or regular meals served afterwards are a good example of being fed during a service (maybe technically not during but as good as). I know Vineyard at least have coffee and donuts/pastries before and after their services, and when you have nothing it does make their services much more tempting! So while I don't think more formal styles of church (formal isn't meant negatively here but I can't think of a better term!) would have refreshments beforehand, maybe 8am service, breakfast, 10.30am service would be a way of having both spiritual and temporal succour for those who need it, and those who wishto fast beforehand can do the 8am service and breakfast afterwards. I would much rather be able to get breakfast before a sung Eucharist (medically exempt from fasting) than a Vineyard service....
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 27
    I do know a large Baptist church (not quite to my taste as it happens) which decided to do something about the homeless people who were coming into the building when it opened on Sunday morning, they serve them breakfast and there is no compulsion for them to join in the worship although some do wander in and out.
  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    In all this debate we seem to have got fixated on musical styles and lost the original point of the thread, which is whether churches can spend too much energy and resources on music (or, indeed, anything "internal") and too little on practical aspects of the Gospel which reach out into society.

    I'm sure the short answer is 'of course'. But I don't think it's ever as straightforward as that.

    Not about music, but I always remember a story in a Lent book by David Sheppard about someone who did a lot of work with homeless people in London. Can't remember the exact details but I think he was asked by someone how he could reconcile attending the church he did - high church, posh chalices, vestments, everything gold and silver etc - and then going out to offer styrofoam cups of soup to the needy and poor.

    He answered along the lines that it was while sharing in such worship that he felt inspired and lifted in his spirit to go out and do what he did. The 'job' of the church, in one way, was to help him feel connected to the Holy God who was worthy of the best of our worship, so he could take the love of that God out to those sleeping on the streets. Then the chalice of the communion became the styrofoam cup of soup. He saw a direct relation between the two.

    I think the story was connected to Mary's ludicrously extravagant gesture of breaking her jar of nard over Jesus's feet, when she could've flogged it and solved a few social evils on her own doorstep.

    Still, no doubt church communities should certainly attempt to connect practically with the needs of the people around them, if possible.




  • Brilliant story, thanks.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Yes, this is largely my stance too. I do not think that the style of church music/aesthetics in general determines how much a church reaches out to the community, and have experienced plenty of good and bad examples in various denominations.

    I think food is such a basic and immediate need to meet. If someone is hungry then they are not going to be able to fully hear the Gospel, whether it's delivered via a choir or a hymn sandwich or whatever. I think churches in general could learn so much from Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists - I don't know what it is about faiths with a large Indian subcontinent community or origin (Buddhism originated in India) but growing up in a city with a large South Asian community, their places of worship regardless of faith consistently fed people via am attached canteen or mobile soup kitchen. Of course churches feed people too, but I never see anything like it on that scale. I'm also always struck by all the free food given out during Ramadan by Muslim businesses - I was staying in a Muslim area during Ramadan a few years ago and once the sun had set, all the takeaway and shop owners were on their doorsteps giving out food. Sometimes just sweets, but it was incredibly moving and has really stayed with me. I do wonder why churches do not do similar during Lent.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Also sorry for the double post, but I think practical provision like that works best when everyone partakes and it's not set aside as being 'for the homeless'. Obviously there are some exceptions, but things being open to everyone reduces stigma, and also helps people such as the 'invisible homeless' (eg sofa surfers) who may not be obviously in need. In big cities, temple/gudwara/mosque canteens are really popular with Indian tourists! Because everyone uses them, there's no division between 'the congregation' and 'the needy'.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Yes. And I made the connection earlier with the perfumed jar. If worship (coming towards to kiss) inspires worship (service of others) that is good. But each has intrinsic value. God may be encountered and served in either way.

    Musical repertoires are a side issue, raising strong feelings and certainly connected to Church of England politics. If you are suspicious of the HTB stream or the New Wine stream, then you will be suspicious of the extensive use of contemporary musical repertoires in those streams. Which can kind of get in the way of discussing the intrinsic value of choral music.

    If you think all 'jars of nard' are wasteful (compared with social action on behalf of the poor), you won't be in the least interested in whether the 'traditional nard' has a nicer smell than the 'contemporary nard'. Or vice versa.

    I am sure that the 'nard offering' has an intrinsic value as an act of worship. Whether contained in a traditional or contemporary jar.

  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    And of course, church music is on a spectrum. Does K*v*n M*yh*w inspire anyone to do anything other than going back in time and preventing Mr and Mrs Mayhew from meeting?

    I would wager that most CoE churches (for now anyway), most traditional Nonconformists, and probably most RCs have a fairly MOTR musical repetoire. Some traditional hymns, some 70s/80s material (usually bad), some 20th century stuff. Even conservative evangelical Anglicans go down this route (often with a more worship band focused evening service) and they'd object to choral services just as much as HTB types.

    I think perhaps the charismatics and the choral services (within the CoE) both appeal because they are more unusual. There is something unique. I think therefore that we - dare I say it - possibly have areas those two groups could collaborate in...? I certainly think there is potentially more in common than meets the eye. I even know of Methodist and Pentecostal churches joining together to explore their shared heritage. Don't get me wrong, I have huge issues with much of HTB and similar churches but I don't know that I would feel less at home there than a church that's all 80s choruses (not even the good 80s) and weak tea in Berylware cups.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 28
    You can't have a church without Berylware cups - particularly the light green ones!

    Or Gopak folding tables!
  • There seems to me to be a huge crossover between this thread and the one investigating the definition of communities. A church is, among other things, a community, and it needs to decide where and how to invest its resources.

    It has a culture, which requires invesment of resources of all kinds for its maintenance and can be of huge value in nourishing its members and giving them the resources for their work beyond the church building, but which can amount to self-worship if it is totally overbalanced.

    It has, in most cases, a building, and again a balance is required between working with what one already has and working to change it to meet different needs. This balance will change, at least in terms of kitchens and toilets, according to whether it's a gathered congregation or a parish-bound one (this is mostly a C of E question, but probably has its equivalent in other churches, e.g. town vs. country churches and their different "catchment areas". Gathered congregations need all of the "plant" on site, unless they are to impose considerable burdens on their members in terms of fetching and carrying. This also gives them the opportunity to serve their local area, but then of course members of the congregation have to come in to the building in order to provide those services.

    It's all a matter of balance, and whatever element receives an unbalanced level of attention from the community, including the needs of outside parties, is in danger of becoming the object of the worshipping community's worship. That focus has to remain God, of course, but there are infinite ways of achieving that focus, and this seems to me to be one of those debates which have to continue throughout the lifetime of that community.
  • I think that's exactly right. And what you say about "gathered" churches is interesting: my son was for a time involved in a large church which met weekly in a school hall; though they were allowed to store stuff on the premises the amount of energy required to mount each service was considerable, although that had to be balanced with not needing to maintain a building of course. I like too your comment that it's possible for a church to "overbalance" in the direction of serving outside parties - some churches have so tied up their own buildings that they cannot function properly as a church.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Some random thoughts on this, but a bit inconsistent, I know.

    First of all, bearing in mind all the heavy duty technology, and professional 'worship leaders'* involved, I suspect the HTB approach is probably just as expensive, and demands just as much organising as a traditional choir.

    Second, these days, it's also likely to involves just as little congregational engagement as a traditional choir. Unlike the more informally recruited bands of 25 years ago, a lot of what they sing now isn't really either designed or suitable for the rest of the congregation to join in with - apart perhaps from standing up and jigging along in time to.

    Third, either way, if you're one of those who directly participates and for whom the model chosen has become a really important part of your faith life, is it strengthening your Christian walk, or without your perhaps noticing it diverting you from it? C. S. Lewis wrote, probably about 80 years ago about 'Christianity and ?'. The ? can be all sorts of things, politics, the environment, in past eras, often temperance. If you have a ?, is it in step with your Christianity, or has it subtly replaced it? Has it become not the outworking of your Christian walk but a less demanding, less embarrassing, more socially acceptable, replacement for it?

    They may not be campaigning for a cause but both choral worship and Christian rock can become that for people.

    Fourth, do you subtly think that people who aren't turned on by Gregorian chant, Bach Passions, your favourite choruses from the 1990s, Hymns Ancient and Modern or the latest from Hillsong like you are, are somehow less spiritually 'woke' than you, whether deaf to wonder or stuffy and unspontaneous? And

    Fifth, whatever our preferences, if we insist on doing a cost-benefit analysis of worship and then value it solely in terms of measurable, number of people converted, paupers fed etc, we're in danger of getting like Judas who complained when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. St John, of course, attributes an even worse motive to him, but true worship, if truly worship, is good for its own sake.


    Rant alert

    (* If you must use the term 'worship leader', it should describe, and only describe, the person leading the service at the front. If the Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion/Lord's Supper/Breaking of Bread Service/Holy Liturgy, this is the celebrant. Worship is not just the music.

    Rant over.
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