Congregational Song and the Arts

I’m going to be heading out this weekend to Berkeley, California, to attend the Hymn Society Conference. The theme is “Congregational Song and the Arts” and there will be a focus on faith, beauty, and social justice. It’s an interesting combination of words, and the publicity has said “we will reflect on some neglected dimensions of justice, beauty, and faith and the interconnections among them. In particular, we will consider the role of congregational song in exploring and voicing them and drawing them together, as the beauty of sung faith awakens us to the power of the arts to express God’s praise and to show us how to work for the healing of the world.”

I am so looking forward to this!

It seems that too often we have identified “the arts” as something nice, but not necessary. When finances are tight–whether in schools or in churches–far too often the arts are the first things cut.

And yet the arts shape us. I can remember growing up hearing the hymnal being referred to sometimes as an additional book of scripture. I still find myself singing some of the old songs I grew up with, even though I no longer agree with the theology expressed in them–and yet, they still provide a connection with the Divine.

And who can think about the Civil Rights movement without thinking of song?

We are what we sing, whether we like it or not…and whether we even realize it or not. Our music shapes us. It comforts us…it challenges us…

Another quote from the Hymn Society brochure:

We do not customarily group these three [faith, beauty, social justice] together. Perhaps we should. All three are rooted in our yearning to draw closer to a holy will and purpose for human living. All three suffer from misues and misunderstanding:

faith can be reduced to dogma;
beauty can be neglected for utility;
social justice can be ignored for the sake of the status quo.

I am looking forward to a time of making a joyful noise…of being comforted…of being challenged…of hearing new ways to express God’s call…