A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's a Hymn, Not a Funeral Dirge

I have a real pet peeve when it comes to worship. I strongly disapprove of playing hymns at a tempo slower than the tortoise racing the hare. I am thankful that the organist at our church plays the hymns at a brisk pace that allows us to sing with gusto and to remind us that as we stand and sing we are truly awake.

I know of some classically trained organists who seem to think that playing hymns at a snail's pace is somehow a holy endeavor, but in reality it is a cure for insomnia.

I think it is appropriate to be reminded of John Wesley's rules for singing. I highlight the germane portions in bold print:

Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy harmony, but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

The reason we Christians worship on Sunday is because it is the day of our Lord's resurrection. So we must sing joyfully and at a brisk cadence. Sundays are a celebration of resurrection life, not a funeral dirge to be played at a memorial service for a dead friend.

So, all you church musicians out there... please pick up the tempo if you haven't already. It will assist the rest of us greatly as we lift our voices to God in worship.

And leave the creeping laments for the funeral home.


Oloryn said...

I agree with you, for the most part, with a few exceptions. E.g. Graham Kendrick's "Knowing You" sung briskly and cheerfully gives a very "Plastic Christian" feel. Matthew Ward's slower rendition of the same song is much more a call to genuine worship (but still not at a tortoise pace).

Allan R. Bevere said...

True, Ben... not all songs are improved by tempo, but there are plenty of songs that are killed by lack of tempo.

Andy said...

Pastor Bevere, Andy Blye here, married to Jennifer (Miller) Blye formerly of the Smithville UMC :)

We are senior pastors of a church in rural South Dakota, and I want to thank you for this entry.