Originally posted Aug. 28, 2012, at Halstad Parish. Republished with permission of the author.
I had the most fun the other night. I laughed until the tears ran down my cheeks and my abs (such as they are) got a real workout. I went to a concert; well, it was really a sing-a-long. We sang songs from old movies and musicals. I suppose you could compare it to live-action karaoke as there was a group of singers and players leading us in the songs, and the audience was definitely encouraged to sing along.
I came in late and so I ended up sitting in front and found myself sitting next to someone who was having just as much fun as I was singing along to the songs and hamming it up a bit. We surprised ourselves by remembering so many words.
I was reminded of my mother and one of the things she used to do that embarrassed me so much as a teenager. I mentioned to my seatmate that my mom always seemed to have a song for everything; give her a phrase or a situation or name something and Mom could have a song that fit. She said her mom was similar, and now look at us, instead of being embarrassed, we are being just like our mothers and enjoying it. (It happens more often than we like to admit!)
It’s fun to sing together — even if you can’t carry a tune. While at seminary, we belonged to a local mission congregation whose pastor loved to sing hymns, and he sang with lots of energy and volume even though the tune might be totally unrecognizable. And yet, his joy and enthusiasm also came through loud and clear and the congregation also sang with passion.
Singing is fun and a lot of people enjoy singing together even if we don’t get many chances to do it. But put singing together and church in the same subject line, and controversy seems sure to follow. Much of the discussion and argument about worship and liturgy ends up being about what music to sing and how to sing it.
Not only do most people seem to have an opinion about what they like and think is appropriate, but our song has become loaded down with lots of extra baggage. Do we sing “old favorites” or contemporary? On which generation do we focus our attention? At the base of these kinds of questions may be the real issue — bringing more people to worship.
Now scads and scads of stuff has been written on the subject, but I’m not going to get into that. As I sang my heart out the other night, what I experienced was something else.
When people get together and are led with joy and passion, people like singing together. It’s not the style of the music or the ability of each person singing. Certainly the other night there were those who just sat and enjoyed listening to the whole experience. Some people knew more words than others. But there is something about being in a group and singing together that is uplifting and energizing. Look at flash mob choirs, karaoke bars and the popularity of shows like “Glee”; a lot of people like to sing.
The point isn’t which songs we sing, or the style of the music, or how new or old it is. The point is singing together; the joy and passion are contageous. I have a strong feeling that the secret to making our music attractive to others is not necessarily which music we pick but whether we love and enjoy that music and want to share it. The key is doing this in community as a community.
Our communal song will be shaped by who we are, our shared experiences, and our individual lives and gifts as well. If we are not good at singing together, we may need to learn more music and spend time learning how to sing together. Sometimes, our singing together may sound like a choir with balanced tones and harmonies and other times we may just make some joyful noise together. The point isn’t which song we sing or how well we sing. It is that we come together in faith and lift each other up by joining in song. Certainly there is power in music, and the music of faith is the most powerful of all. Read Ephesians 5:15-20.
Find a link to Christine Iverson’s entry on the blog Halstad Parish at Lutheran Blogs.