Dialogue sermon on Music in Worship 7/21/13

Stephanie is a pastor in the Baptist tradition.  She is taking courses at Lutheran Theological Seminary and has served as youth pastor at Zion Baptist, and helped with starting and growing some churches. She and I got together this week to discuss some issues around when it’s ok to applaud in church and what’s the difference between praise and performance.  We’ve had a fun time thinking about it.

Philippians 4:8-9

July 21, 2013

Music in Worship: Praise vs. Performance
Pastor David & Stephanie Carter

David: Let me start by telling you a little bit about the church I grew up in.  Westwood United Methodist Church is a beautiful old stone church. I lived right up the block from the church.  When you entered the big, beautiful sanctuary, there was a sign over the door, if I remember correctly, that said, “Enter quietly. Leave with Joy” which reminded me of our scripture reading for this morning from Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.”
There was no applause in my church sanctuary growing up – hardly ever. Only when the children performed – and then they had to be really cute. Otherwise, worship was meant to be quiet, meditative, respectful, listening for God’s still, small voice.  Worship started at 11 and ended at noon. Everything was under control. None of this joys and concerns stuff where people talk and you don’t know what they are going to say.
What was it like for you growing up Stephanie?

Steph: spoke about growing up in the African American church tradition with call and response and a more exuberant form of worship. She also gave definitions of worship and the word Selah in the Psalms.

Pastor David: Today the 11 am service at my old home church has a contemporary band, but when I was growing up, the sanctuary choir held sway.  The music was all classical and traditional.  We sang mostly “old favorite” music. Very rarely would you feel the slightest inkling to applaud anyway, so the distinction between worship and performance was not hard to discern.
Read Psalm 66: When I came to Philadelphia,, and started to work in the city and going to city churches, I experienced different kinds of worship – sometimes like what Stephanie grew up with. I enjoyed the call and response style, but it was a little uncomfortable for me to do it. When I preached the first time somebody shouted out “Amen” or “go ahead on, preacher” I stopped my sermon to look and see who was interrupting me!
It takes some getting used to, both to tolerate, then to appreciate and even take part in a participatory style of worship. As a white guy, I had to try it out before I realized that saying “amen” did not necessarily mean I agreed with what the preacher was saying. There was not time for that. What it meant was that I was with the preacher, that I supported him or her. The boundary breaks down between the job of preaching and the job of being a congregant. The congregation becomes part of the preaching process and everybody is in it together. You may not want it for a steady diet, but trying it now and then can be an interesting experience.

Stephanie: Reads Psalm 150, Talked about how coming to St. Luke has been like coming back to childhood church. With different styles of music

DT: Now with our new Minister of Music, we are poised to try some different things in line with our goal to have a multi-generational, multi-cultural worship atmosphere. I have to ask you for a little patience this summer as we learn to work together. We will try some new things, but first we have to just get to know each other.
We are not trying to leave behind the kind of music we have done well in the past. On the contrary, our plan and our hope is to continue to grow our choir with excellent, sophisticated, theologically and musically sound worship music. I may be naive, because I like a broad range of musical styles, but I think folks will enjoy the different styles we bring into worship, and when the music is a little too slow for you, you can manage and when the music goes a little too fast for you, you can manage, and we’ll come out involving us all in the end.
We are hoping to encourage more participation from young people in youth and college age choirs, children’s choir, and by adding instruments to the presentation.  Everybody has a chance to be part of worship and it is our sincere and heartfelt desire that in that process, we will all experience the very presence of the Living God in the music, the prayers, the singing, in scripture reading, and community building in this place.
We will make room for people who occasionally feel the Spirit moving in a way that calls them to respond to the message or to the music with an “amen” or “go ahead on” and we will make room also for the important part of worship which happens in silent listening for the voice of God.
Next week I will talk some more about how we can manage that blending and how to create the deepest worship experience for all of us, including how to be part of worship rather than expecting someone else to be performing the worship for our consumption.  Amen?
This is God’s good news.

Responsive hymn 352 It’s Me, It’s Me, O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer