My church is a medium-large parish church set in a particularly artsy area of London with a well-established Worship Minister who excels in the contemporary style. Believing, as we do, that the distinction between contemporary and classical music need not define how we participate in worship together, we’ve set out to combine all useful aspects of Christian music in our services.
This is, of course, a great challenge, as those who have spent many years doing “blended” music know. We’ve asked, and are continuing to ask, these questions: Who is the congregation? Are they mature Christians? Seekers? Christmas and Easter attenders? Which styles do they immediately connect with? Which styles will draw them to a deeper understanding of God? What will spur them on to deeper worship and praise? Who are the musicians? What are their talents and gifting? Are they willing to try something they haven’t been educated in or have experience with? What music/style can we accomplish authentically? How can we love each other while doing it? And lastly, but probably the most important question: What makes Jesus most clear?
On Easter Sunday, after much planning and work, we enjoyed a rich musical feast together, which included:
- Jesus Christ is Risen Today (organ with trumpet descent, 3rd verse re- orchestrated in a jazz style)
- Come People of the Risen King, by Keith Getty
- Crown Him with Many Crowns (worship band with choir, drum kit and organ accompaniment)
- The Gospel Song, by Sovereign Grace Music (with hand motions led by children)
- Come, See the Song, by Joel Payne (worship band)
- Choir during Communion: Ave Verum Corpus, Mozart (with organ), O Happy Day (gospel arrangement with solo, band & congregation joining in)
- Thine Be the Glory (organ with trumpet)
- Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (organ postlude)
Did each component speak to each member of the congregation? Probably not. Did the choir struggle singing Mozart and then switching styles to sing gospel? Yes. Were there practical challenges of where to stand, how and when to use microphones, and what to put on the powerpoint? Yes. Was it worth the effort? Most certainly.
The congregation, little by little, is learning to sing louder, to engage further, and to love those around them with different tastes. The musicians are learning to expand their musical gifts and to trust that when the gospel soloist is willing to join the choir and sing Mozart, they can make the same effort to sing in her style. Most importantly, our congregation is learning to see Jesus more clearly. Those who have little experience with Jesus can participate more easily in the hymns. Those who love a more “free” experience of the Spirit love to sing the contemporary songs. We are all nourished by the great theology of the hymns and participatory language of the choruses.
We are, after all, just one part of the living body of Christ here on earth. If we can, even a little bit, taste the great musical riches of heaven, we are spurred on to greater worship of the God who gave everything for us.