By Daniel Thomas, Church musician
One of the interesting challenges that we face in selecting music to use in worship is finding a balance between “traditional” and “contemporary” music. We all know that music is very powerful and has the ability to enhance the worship, deepening one’s connection to God and the Word, allowing one to meditate, reflect, or hear God’s message in a different way. Many people find comfort in the “old familiar tunes” they heard in worship as a child, and many others appreciate hearing a style and energy of music they hear and appreciate in the rest of their lives.
Or, it has the ability to do exactly the opposite – it can be a distraction, a hindrance, or even an annoyance during worship. This can be because the listener is not familiar with the music, causing them to struggle to follow along, or even just to “tune out.” Or it can be because the listener doesn’t care for a particular style of music – or even if they do like the style, they don’t think that style is “appropriate” for a worship service.
Many congregations, especially those with a broad generational profile, struggle with this each week. How do you honor music from across the centuries and continents while still connecting with as many worshippers as possible? This is especially true of liturgical music, which is used every Sunday for anywhere between six and twelve weeks in a row.
We made a deliberate decision to use liturgical music from the Lutheran Book of Worship for this Lenten season. This music definitely feels “old school” for many of our congregants, and I’ve heard from several that this was not their favorite selection. That said, I’ve heard similar commentary about each liturgical music choice that we make, and I know we’ll never please everyone all of the time. Fortunately, the seasons continue to change, as will the liturgies. I welcome any thoughts or comments about the music we use in service – and this summer we’ll be making quite a departure from LBW-style liturgies, so stay tuned for that!
In the meantime, whatever music is being used in our service, I can only hope that we all remember that no matter what the style, the unique and transformative power of all music is being used to connect us all with God’s word – and that we all can find that power if we keep our minds and ears open.