Everything old is new again— The Cyclical Principle
As excitement continues to build for the launch of the TAPESTRY worship service this weekend at St. John’s, one question that surfaces daily is the curiosity about the music for this innovative worship experience. What exactly can worshippers expect when they attend this outdoor service?
Let’s begin by what will not be present—there will be an absence of any hymnal book (senza THE HYMNAL 1982, LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING, or WONDER, LOVE, AND PRAISE). Nor will there be any large screens projecting lyrics to the masses.
What about a formal choir? Nope. A Praise Band? Nope?
Without books, words, choirs, or bands, how can singing be integrated in worship?
For centuries, worship music has been led with a multitude of instruments with the one present element being the voice. Think about Exodus 15:1—
“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD saying, ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumped gloriously…’ “ (RSV);
or consider the words of the apostle Matthew 26:30—
“…And when they sung a hymn, (Jesus and his disciples) they went out to the Mount of Olives…” (RSV)
Singing, no instruments, no percussion, only the voices bestowed from the Creator.
The power of congregational singing assisting the church express and experience unity through the Body of Christ was recognized by John Calvin. This emotional context is clear in Calvin’s The Institutes of Christian Religion, where he states:
“….(Congregational) singing lends dignity and grace to sacred actions and has the greatest value in kindling our heart to a true zeal and eagerness to pray….those who love the Lord are encouraged to sing till we feel our hearts ascending with our tongues…”
The words and music offered must forever communicate and express a sense of awe and wonder in the presence of God. As we are all unique individuals with varying gifts, our different voices offer a variety of timbres and quality which “weave” together the musical cloth of God’s people.
Vast majority of “Contemporary” Christian music is oriented towards performance, not participation. Reformed theologian Karl Barth emphasizes that for the people of God, singing is NOT optional; it is one of the essential ministries of the church. Barth continues:
“…The Christian church sings. It is NOT a choral society. Its singing is NOT a concert. But from inner, material necessity it sings. Singing is the highest form of human expression….What we can and must say quite confidently is that the church which does not sing is not the church. And where….it does not really sing but signs and mumbles spasmodically, shamefacedly and with an ill grace, it can be at best only a troubled community which is not sure of its cause and of whose ministry and witness there can be no great expectation…The praise of God which finds its concrete culmination in the singing of the community is one of the indispensable forms of the ministry of the church.”
As St. John’s launches the innovative TAPESTRY worship service this coming Sunday, October 1st, the music we share together as a community will enhance and the spoken Word as we experience God’s presence at this special moment in time. Calling on the history of the early Christian Church, we all lift our voices together in song.
Label it what you will:
Copycat, Mime, Ape, Mimic, Follow, Emulate, Echo, Call and Response: listening to a phrase of words and music, then repeating it.
From the Old Testament to the 2023 TAPESTRY Worship Service…Everything “old” is “new” again. This non-performance-oriented worship approach invites all to:
Join in community
All are welcome