Letters from 19 to
25 May 2008
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this edition of Letters to the Editor, many wrote in response
to last Sunday's front-page letter on church music.
I liked your article on the type of music to be used in Anglican services.
In my church in Eastern Nigeria, the Vicar has introduced rhythmic
Afrfican songs in the local languages in to the program and encourages
parishioners to dance along when his band steps up to perform,
occasioning much headshaking and muttering amongst older members (amongst
whom is this antediluvian 30-something year old). I think that
the A&M hymns are good enough for an Anglican service and that
entertainment has no place in church, where people are suposed
to have come to commune seriously with their Maker.
St. Andrew's Church
19 May 2008
agree that a central purpose of church music is to "draw in" those
hearing it, as you so aptly put it. I sing and have sung in choirs
for a long time; also serve currently on the vestry where music is
often discussed and supported with assigned funds that are rarely
blessed with a fine music director who
keeps us choristers in line and continually attempts to draw good
music out of us. I consider it a privilege and a pleasure to be part
of this Sunday routine. We sing
classical anthems and some contemporary pieces including some
spirituals; quite an eclectic mix, you might say. However,
the nine o'clock service, like many other churches, I suspect,
often uses a different kind of music altogether. There is some
controversy about that, but it is justified as an instrument to "draw
people who might not otherwise attend. Well,
that's debatable. As a young chorister, singing soprano until my
voice broke, like many others I was "drawn in" by Palestrina,
Schubert, and Orlando Gibbons, et al, and was not turned away by such
the youngsters today might be missing something important, being
confined as they are to so-called contemporary Christian music. "Doobie, doobie do," indeed.
Ascension Episcopal Church
Pueblo, Colorado, USA
19 May 2008
I read with interest your editorial on what music is suitable for Anglican
worship. One of the things that occurred to me is that one of
the great innovations of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) was that
it was in "the language of the people" and thus enabled people
to address (and be addressed by) God in their own language in
the course of worship. How, then, do we literally translate that
concept to our own worship in the twenty-first century?
submit that the genius of the Anglican liturgy is that it is infinitely
customizable without losing its essential structure and purpose.
I've attended worship (Penitential Holy Eucharist, Rite II) in
an Episcopal church with a more Pentecostal flavor (never seen
anyone slain in the Spirit in an Episcopal church before. . .
), in a low-church Virginia setting (same Rite) and in a high-church
Pennsylvania setting (same Rite). All were liturgical, all were
according to the same portion of the Prayer Book, but all had
different feelings and flavors to them.
submit that the reason for a variety of churches, and even a variety
of church services in the same building, is that different worship
songs and styles are meaningful to different people. Common prayer
should not be equated with common musical tastes.
St. Alban's, Albany
Albany, Oregon, USA
19 May 2008
As it happened this last Sunday, I had five absentees from our choir (of the
first sort you describe.. deeply commited), so the William Byrd
motet we had planned was canned until next time. And instead
we sang a plainsong introit for Trinity, and another plainsong
work post communion — all without explanation that this was medieval
stuff. Comments afterwards: That was "So-ooo . . . peaceful and
relaxing" and "Wonderful!"
And our Trinity service was indeed remarkable for its cohesiveness
of mood and message.
I am convinced
that any music which makes the blood boil with excitement (i.e.,
pumps up our hormones) is probably not conducive to true worship.
Good for ramming home a message perhaps. "Bonding" a group. This
includes Handel as much as modern rock. Music which is NOT "driven" to
resolve to a tonality (as is Gregorian chant) does though induce
the contemplative state. Has a different chemical effect in our
expect music for worship to parallel that of the big wide world.
Worship is a unique place and space all of its own.
St John the Baptist, Anglican, Northcote
Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
20 May 2008
Your editorial about music in Anglican worship struck a chord with me, because
I am serving as missioner to a small Episcopal fellowship in which
half our typical congregation is children under the age of 8.
I love the great music of the liturgy, but when congregants are
four years old, it doesn't bring them together in worship.
learning to ask what is the musical "language understanded of
the people?" And
how can we always be growing and learning, so next year our musical
worship repertoire is just a bit broader, just a bit more sophisticated?
Holy Family Episcopal Fellowship
Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA
20 May 2008
I read your opening letter this past week with great interest. I once
heard James Dobson say that in the many on-air discussions he
has involving matters of politics, child abuse, substance abuse,
various sexual practices, none will generate
as much mail as church music.
worship services I have attended there has been a wide variety
of musical expression. While I personally preferred those places
that used older hymns and what might be called a classical style,
those parishes that used modern music and a contemporary style
seemed to do well integrating that style into the liturgy. It
seems to me that it is more important to do the music that you
do well rather than which type of music you do.
(CPT) Steven Rindahl
Episcopal (Anglican) Community of Ft Hood
Ft Hood, Texas, USA
21 May 2008
con forza et brio
dead on target in your editorial: music and liturgy are worth
fighting about; sexuality isn't.
no difference to my church experience whether the guy next to
me in the pew is gay or straight, but the character of the music
and liturgy makes a vast difference to my church experience. How
people conduct themselves outside of church is no skin off of
my nose and isn't my business or anyone else's. As for the church's
official doctrines about moral matters, I really don't care. I
don't look to the church for moral guidance — like most adults,
I can figure out these matters for myself. More importantly, I
don't think we should expect the church to be an instrument of
social control, to promote the kinds of social arrangements we
prefer and discourage what we regard as bad behavior.
and liturgy are everything. They're what the church does for us
that we can't do for
ourselves. I don't really understand the worry that "certain kinds
of music are unsuitable for Anglican worship" and should be excluded.
Of course nothing should be excluded — the more people
get what they want the better. What bugs me is that what I want has
been de facto excluded. Yes, I could take a pilgrimage to some remote
Anglo-Catholic music shrine and yes I could go to the early Rite
I said service, but no, neither of those options is satisfactory
and the second is insulting, because it's usually phrased as "there's
a quiet Rite I service at 8 am for the old people."
candy. I went to a Sunday high mass in St. Mark's in Venice with
the mass sung in Latin by a choir split between those two famous
balconies, under 42,000 square feet of mosaics: I wished I were tripping
on acid! That was candy. So why are we getting broccoli and whole
grain cereals? Why can't we have that dark chocolate, spumoni ice
cream and tiramisu? Why can't we have that Elizabethan language and
fancy music — and the fancier the better? Are they fattening?
Will they rot our teeth or make us break-out? Will overloading on
them cause susceptible individuals to develop behavior problems?
and music are absolutely worth fighting about!
H. E. Baber
University of San Diego
San Diego, California, USA
24 May 2008
Your comments about music for Anglican worship were good — they
might be used as a springboard for discussion in parishes pondering
experience has been that contemporary music can certainly be a
part of liturgical worship. You said, "We're sure there
are churches in which Contemporary Christian Music is used as the
core of the worship service. Are they Anglican? Could they be?" The
answer is definitely yes, contemporary Christian music can be the
core of the musical portion of the service. In a past parish, we used
a blend, some wonderful old hymns as well as quite new praise music,
all done with piano, guitars and an organ.
my children responded in amazement to your article. She stated, "As
long as the music is chosen thoughtfully and prayerfully, it definitely
suits the liturgy!" Her younger brother is her priest, and yes,
it is a liturgical Anglican church where they celebrate the Eucharist
every Sunday. The music is definitely contemporary, the congregation
mostly young families.
Every congregation has its own personality. I don't think there is
a right or wrong way to use music to worship God as long as the music
is truly used as worship and not as a vehicle to build up a particular
musician (and this can happen in either traditional or contemporary
I love a good choir, I love the hymns I grew up with, and I love
to sing out "Praise my soul, the King of heaven" and
know His Presence in this kind of worship. But perhaps I am unusual,
for I also love contemporary praise, wonderful music led well by capable
guitars, keyboards and drums, and my spirit soars in such a service.
I believe there is room for both, and that we shouldn't have to choose
one as the better way to praise God - I think He's bigger than that.
We obviously have to choose which we will use at a particular time,
but that doesn't make the other insignificant or unworthy, just not
the choice at that moment.
I don't know if you expected or have received comments from others
on this topic. Obviously I have strong feelings (as do my 4 kids)
or I wouldn't have responded, since I've never written a letter to
an editor before in my life. I'd be interested in knowing how others
feel, but wonder how welcoming of different styles of worship they
Mary Lou Hoskins
St Thomas Anglican Church
Thunder Bay, Ontario, CANADA
24 May 2008
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