June 14th, 2010


Meanwhile, at Backside of Glory UMC

Well, Sunday was a blast. I had decided to sing my way through the message, which jazzed up the service considerably.

One of the points-on-the-way-to-the-main-point I made was that congregational singing is about participation rather than performance. This is a point not well understood by those who are engaged in what are called "the worship wars." Worship leaders from both the choir-dominated, traditional approach and the rock-band-for-Jesus contemporary folks tend to be heavily into performance. The traditional types keep trying to get the congregation to sing like a choir, with frustrating results for everybody. But the contemporary "worship team" types want to reduce the congregation to an audience. Meanwhile, I was brought up to treat music as a living thing, something as natural as breathing or talking. My mother sang to me. And I spent years singing in camp dining halls and at Scout campfires, where there were no instruments and where the ability to get the group to join in was valued. Someone who actually knows how to lead singing -- a skill distinct from that of conducting a choir or fronting a band -- gets an immediate, positive effect from a congregation.

The Hymn of Response was one I wrote over 25 years ago, which has only been performed in public once before. I call it, "The Laughter of God." It's a resurrection hymn. I had decided to test out the old canard that some of our best hymns are lyrics set to old bar-room tunes. I deliberately picked the most unlikely tune I could find, with the most unchurchly associations, and set out to write a hymn set to it. I picked "John Peel," a song about fox hunting. I didn't tell the congregation what the source of the tune was, though, and they loved the song as they encountered it. So, the canard is, as the Mythbusters say, Plausible.

After church, I went over to one of our Venturers' house where we had a pool party and cookout. Four adult and six youth Venturers, plus three little brothers had a great time. One of said little brothers was Michael, who is joining us soon and whose fourteenth birthday it was. At the end, we sang him the Russian Happy Birthday Song -- just like the Scouts did two years ago, when he spent his twelfth birthday hiking twenty miles with us.

Finished the day off with the Church Council dinner and meeting. Lots of good stuff going on here at EFUMC. One thing we're celebrating is that we had three Scout units earn the Bishop's Award of Excellence this year: Pack 129, Troop 119, and Crew 119. Good times all around. The denomination and Conference may be headed for extinction, but there's lots of life in many local churches.