Monthly Archives: April 2009

‘Tis the Spring of Souls Today

Here is a hymn of John of Damascus (circa 6th century) for Easter:

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness.
‘Tis the spring of souls today:
Christ hath burst His prison
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen.

Now the queen of seasons, bright
with the day of splendor,
with the royal feast of feasts,
comes its joy to render;
comes to glad Jerusalem,
who with true affection
welcomes in unwearied strains
Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,
nor the tomb’s dark portal,
nor the watchers, nor the seal
hold thee as a mortal:
but today amidst the twelve
thou didst stand, bestowing
that thy peace which evermore
passeth human knowing.

Alleluia now we cry
to our King Immortal,
who triumphant burst the bars
of the tomb’s dark portal;
alleluia, with the Son
God the Father praising;
alleluia yet again
to the Spirit raising.

The Future of Church Music

Carlos Whitaker asked the question on his blog, Ragamuffin Soul,

1. What is the next sound that will dominate Sunday mornings across America?
2. If your church has a “sound”, will you be willing to change or become “that church” whose pipe organ and ties has simply been replaced with an electric guitars and v-necks.

After reading 4 pages of replies – some insightful, some a little misguided – I responded thus:

My hope? My hope is that the practice of church music will return to being congregation-focused rather than musician focused (on a human level – obviously we must be ultimately Trinity-focused). I long for a return to musicians choosing songs, keys, etc. for what serves the congregation best. The best church music is that which supports congregational singing.

Realistically, that’s not going to happen without some fundamental changes. 1) Humility on the part of the musicians. Worship leading tenors (especially) will have to stop “showing off” and die to the idea that them sounding “awesome” is what serves the congregation best. 2) Pastors who are willing to eschew the styles that they hear from the “successful” churches portrayed at conferences for one that is focused on corporate singing. 3) Congregations who come to corporate worship to actually worship corporately, rather than just happen to be individually worshipping while a bunch of other people are doing the same thing.

Is this pitting the modern church against the traditional church? No. The problem exists in all kinds of churches. A tenor worship leader on their own mission in the stratosphere is just as bad as an organist playing a 3-minute obscure introduction to a hymn. The “giant show” mentality exists with having the most kicking band or having the largest, most trained choir in town. The problem largely goes back to the Second Great Awakening (in the US), not to the mid-’80s.

As long as we see worship as a production and the congregation as an audience, we’ll stay sick.

So is my head completely in the clouds? Am I a cultural dinosaur? Probably.