Should it matter to your church what year it is?
Safiyah Fosua writes a great piece, primarily about worship… but I think it fits for other areas of the church as well. What year is it in YOUR church? Here’s part of what she writes: Should it matter to the Church what year it is? Why, aren’t the music, the language, and the texts of the church timeless? We who lead churches know that the answer is both yes and no. Yes, there are some timeless qualities about the ethos of the Church. But, no, not everything is timeless. From time to time, the worship aids used by churches must be updated or adapted for new worshippers, while retaining meaning. The original function of memorized or written liturgy was to give worshippers a tool to enter the presence of God. I invite you to also view songs sung in worship as a worship aid, atool to help congregants actually worship and come into the presence of a Holy God. How do we select music for the 21st century? Consider the following:
- There are some songs and hymns that proverbially stand the test of time. By this, we mean that the texts and sometimes their tunes transcend time and culture and convey meaning for multiple generations.
- For every timeless hymn, there are many more hymns and songs with a very limited shelf life. These songs and hymns were helpful tools for worship for their time, but times have changed and now people either find their texts awkward or their tunes meaningless. Some of them were born in a spiritual movement. For example, the genre of Christian music that emerged during the Civil Rights Movement is said to have fueled the movement by inspiring people of multiple races to remember the biblical principles for which they were demonstrating. Once the movement was over, the music of the movement quickly retreated into history. The same could be said of music that emerged during several of North America’s spiritual awakenings. These songs were targeted and specific. While they fulfilled their purpose in their time, times have changed and the people today who need an awakening are often unable to hear their message.
- And then, there are a number of songs whose texts continue to convey meaning, while the tunes no longer connect with our times or vice-versa. What do we do with them? Perhaps we could take a cue from younger generations who have become skilled in pairing them with different texts or more contextually relevant tunes. Two important words to remember as you consider using music from another era areremix and mashup. A remix involves repackaging the text or the tune with either a new set of lyrics or a new tune. A mashup goes a step beyond to pair the familiar text and tune with a more contextual one. Charles Wesley’s “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (1739), has recently been both remixed and mashed up in very distinct, culturally relevant ways. Mark Miller provides a recent example of a remix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gslyMd0MPqs and the David Crowder Band provides a popular example of a mashup http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWekq9bHtKU.