It is Tuesday after the final Gathering Service, our final worship service of 2010-2011. To the right here is the order of service. I had two students email and ask for it and thought others might want to remember with us.
A comparative retrospective for my journey in these things:
I remember experiencing worship services back in Oklahoma that took us to a place in God's presence, a kind of hope-filled unity and gladness of being that moved beyond what I could have conceived in my own imagination. We were somewhat a Charismatic congregation. Songs were not very thoroughly arranged. We'd rehearse six or eight and in the service might only do four of them, or we might jump into a song we hadn't planned initially at all. The lights were low in a converted warehouse. We sought an interior space to be aware to God's nearness. There wasn't a tight schedule. If I remember correctly, music was usually around 30 minutes or so. There was no rush.
This was the finish of my fifth year here at Hope College. In contrast to what I was doing in Oklahoma: here, a Dutch Reformed tradition but a campus ministry that is decidedly ecumenical; an aged, well lit, gorgeous cathedral-like worship space; a contemporary service that is attempting to include the more deliberate liturgical movements of the Reformed tradition while still being highly accessible to college students (I wrote more thoroughly about this HERE); chapels are 22 minutes; Sunday evening services are 70-75 minutes.
All I want to say (for now) about this comparison is that this final Gathering Service, for my journey/learning curve, brought together so much of both modes of leading. I experienced a continuity between my present and past, some 15+ years of trying to understand worship music in the contemporary context. Today, two days after the event, I'm still absorbing the experience. I'm sure I'll be learning from it all summer and for years to come.
This final picture is not from this recent service. I don't have any pics from that evening yet. This is Jacob and me a month or so ago introducing the service like we did this Sunday night except this Sunday Lauren and Angelee joined us. If I'm going to go huge with the big, anthemic rock songs and the more 'bubble gum' pop music sounds, then I'm looking for more ways to work against that American addiction to sensationalization--more silence, more opportunities to hear the congregation sing 'un-plugged.' Incidentally that is also why I've put so much more energy into the Gospel Choir and the few of the Blue Grass sounds.
Further Thoughts on Rock vis a vis P&W
Here's some more thoughts in regard to my last post...specifically some thoughts Tamara was responding to in the comments section.
Sorry for the pretension of quoting myself, but I enjoy continuing conversations. So to continue that conversation I had said:
"What if we had worship song writers who were deeply rooted in rock music who were as equally formed by Christian spiritual disciplines and were even Biblically and theologically literate? What would those songs sound like?"These thoughts aren't directed squarely to Tamara. I'm using the opportunity to expand on larger concerns.
The issue both artistically and spiritually is a question of being rooted in tradition. Most of us don't like tradition or we are at least indifferent. We prefer to be raw and authentic and present to who we perceive ourselves to truly be. The trouble is that we are thus myopic and (perhaps unwittingly) arrogant. Why should we suppose that our present, authentic self is the best we can attain? There is a rich tradition of people who have worked hard to identify the best of human existence and the best of worship and art practices. We should want to draw from these predecessors and learn from them. Further, an ahistorical posture is just wrong. We are influenced by those who've gone before us whether we acknowledge it or not. There's no such thing as a self-made man.
How can I get the best tone out of my electric guitar without having heard what the the great innovators have done? How can I understand what good literature is if I have not read Dostoevsky? How can I understand the sacrament if I haven't considered what Luther had to say about it?
There is no way for me to understand electric guitars, the novel, or the Bible on my own merit. Someone had to teach me.
This is the reason why I was able to make the jump from an independent, somewhat Charismatic church to the Dutch Reformed context I serve in now. My education had already led me to believe in the importance of living out of a tradition. However, I had not had the opportunity to appropriate and participate in a Christian tradition. I am now substantially more rooted in my faith through the creeds and practices of the Reformed church. There is much that can be said about that. I've written about the value of a historical Christian witness in the blog and other places.
One way to understand the importance of tradition is to consider again what I'm arguing about why contemporary church musicians needs to well versed, deeply rooted in the "tradition" rock music. The trouble is that the "tradition" of rock music is relatively short, disparate and multiform. So take a step further back and think about a piano student who ends up pursuing classical studies in piano performance. She will no doubt need to learn Mozart, Chopin, Schumann and so on. It would be unthinkable for her to truly be a piano student without this training. I'm suggesting that if a contemporary church musicians will likewise be impoverished if his/her only sonic references are from within the vacuum of last 10-15 years of the musical genre that we have come to market as "Praise & Worship." There is a much larger musical conversation that has been going on and continues within a kind of "tradition" of pop rock music. If the church is going to borrow from that tradition, then it should know something about it.
Here a key point: this is not just a question of how we know the pop rock tradition to imitate it or to make music that attains a certain level of integrity, a kind of cultural currency. My point is that if we know more about the tradition, we will also be more equipped to discern what of it is appropriate for our worshiping congregations and what is not. We will be less likely to naively imbibe popular culture and promote sounds that can compromise our fundamental mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. We will be more capable of critiquing and redeeming.