Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Personal Worship

At church last Sunday the pastor spoke to us about having a personal private worship time. That's not something I've ever done much, and the truth is I don't own any worship music that I'm particularly eager to listen to. I wonder if there's a fix for that.

 When it comes to worship time at church, any church, I try to latch on to the message and meaning in the lyric and forget that the music itself (predominant in most churches anyway) is simply uninteresting to me. I know, I know, you want to sound “contemporary” to keep the kids from drifting away, but does that word “contemporary” have to be synonymous with the absence of creativity and the droning sameness of one song after another?

The best worship experience I've had in a church in recent years was in a Church of Christ, with the congregation singing unaccompanied by the usual combo of guitars and drums. The beautiful thing about it was, well, people were really singing, not just holding their hands up and swaying. We could hear ourselves and one another clearly (a novel idea). If you want to sing together with others, you're going to have to find some other place than church, which privileges amped up guitars and drums at the expense of the sound of a multitude of voices. This is simply the way things are, and I'm willing to go along, but I'm not likely to love it.

So the question is, what's out there that I can listen to in my personal worship time? By the way, I don't accept that the only alternative is churchy traditionalism (pipe organs and robed choirs). Dan at Cerulean Sanctum, in a post about the problem of aging congregations, speaking of the propensity of young people to flee the church (even with its "contemporary" worship style) elicited this response from one reader:
The first thing I would say about that is there’s got to be a way to do it without sanctifying whatever’s hip, and simply updating your program to make it entertaining to the Justin Bieber/Twilight crowd. If you want to attract a new generation, don’t simply pander to its shallowest, most entertaining elements.... I find that a lot of young people long for a sense of shared life- of community. They also seem to prioritize enjoyment of things like the arts and the outdoors over climbing the social ladder or accumulation.
The young people I know are not abject suckers for the "contemporary." Walking through the Public Market in Seattle a couple of weeks back, I enjoyed several young buskers, one singing old blues numbers and playing slide guitar, and the other playing claw-hammer banjo, which is a style as old as the hills. Hmmm, I thought young people were only interested in the "contemporary"!

I'm not suggesting these styles of music as alternatives for worship, only asking where are these young people who insist on a standardized "contemporary" worship style at the expense of creativity? I don't think this sort of thing is as attractive to young people as our 40-something pastors think. That commenter at Dan's blog (okay, I admit, it was my own son) said this:
I’ve spent quite a bit of time now in primarily “young” churches, and I can say that they’re not going for the cheesy, canned, airbrushed, super-pious platitudes in loopy lettering. The felt banners and fake plants decor. What the last generation found to be counter-cultural and engaging actually bores the daylights out of young people much of the time. And if it sounds like you’re selling something,
Anyway, read the post and the comments too, because it's all very interesting and it ranges well-beyond the simple issue of worship style. But back to my own question. What music is out there that would be helpful in terms of personal worship? Taize music can be quite powerful in a meditative way:

 

 ... but I'm interested in finding out more. Any suggestions? I'd prefer harmony vocals but not necessarily churchy choirs like Taize, I like acoustic instruments and I like music that draws on tradition creatively without being enslaved by it. Of course it must be Jesus-centered. So if anyone has any suggestions . . . let me know.

4 comments:

nance marie said...

four suggestions...

humming

tongues

silence

make up your own song

Bob Spencer said...

Good suggestions, Nance. The "tongues" part is not so likely though!

Erin Hope said...

hmm...
well, I typically find scattered songs here and there. I really liked the majority of that jars of clay album - redemption songs (bunch of hymns), also, I love compline music, - there's a podcast on itunes - it's under st. marks cathedral, (I'm pretty sure) I listen to that quite a bit, they update it almost every sunday- it's just a compline service.
Also, sufjan stevens - he's got an old christmas album with a bunch of hymns - good ones, acoustic with harmony and banjo.
and.... there's also fernando ortega, he does a lot of good old hymns -just him and piano.

p.s. I think you can find all/most of this on grooveshark for free, which is even cooler.

Erin Hope said...

oh, also, grooveshark stile antico. it's good too.