Recently I attended a meeting of an organization I belong to as a church musician. I enjoy going to these meetings…enjoy hearing new music and getting ideas for music I want to purchase to add to my library.
However, I also sometimes find myself cringing.
I am a classically trained organist. I love classical music…I find it very soothing. I love the music of “high church” and have played a lot of it. I’ve been playing for church in some form or another for almost 60 years, much of the time in “traditional” services.
Now, though, I find myself involved in a contemporary congregation. I am still involved in church music–but instead of playing organ, I often play piano…and am responsible for also scheduling some of the bands who rotate as part of our music ministry.
When I play, I still often use many more traditional hymns…ones that have been around for a long time and that I grew up with as well as some of the wonderful new hymns that have been written. However, I do not limit myself to them, but I look at much of the current praise music as well. Yes, there are some things out there that are not particularly inspiring–but that’s also been true of hymnody. What we forget is that traditional hymnody has the advantage of at least a couple hundred years to cull out the things that are lesser; contemporary music is just beginning the time of doing that.
It is possible to find music that is appropriate for worship in both traditional hymnody and in what is commonly called praise music…but too often those two categories are seen as exclusive of each other–and often at war.
At this meeting I was at, there was identification of a job available. Part of the responsibilities included working with the praise team…and when that was stated, you could hear an audible groan. Several friends shook their heads and made faces of distaste.
If we see ourselves as music ministers, then isn’t it important for us to be sensitive to the folks we minister to? Isn’t it possible for us to recognize that different people respond to different kinds of music? Is it really so bad for some of our music to be simple repetitions of scripture verses…for that to be a way to memorize something that can sustain an individual in times of difficulty? Can’t we find a way to honor and use the wonderful hymns that have stood the test of time…but to also look for the same kind of excellence in contemporary praise music?
Isn’t there room for all of us at the keyboard? I think so.