May 16, 2010

This Our Joyful Hymn of Praise

Over the last 15 years or so, a lot of churches have given up traditional worship altogether in favor of praise bands and praise teams singing praise choruses, which I think is a shame. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against all that praise, but I really love a choir...which I find to be every bit as praise-worthy.

In those churches that still have a traditional worship option, it is often assumed single adults are only interested in contemporary worship, so singles classes are scheduled during the traditional service. I suppose that, regardless of the ages of the singles in those churches, whoever makes those decisions thinks all singles are 22-years-old. I could never attend one of those churches.

I know, I really shouldn't be that snarky about it. Worship isn't for our benefit. Worship is something we give to God, out of love. But I don't believe there's anything wrong with having a preference for one style over another. I'm also not convinced that worship-preference is a generational thing.

I know lots of people my age really do prefer contemporary worship, but I know just as many others who go to the contemporary service at my church just because they prefer the time...not the worship style. Our contemporary service is early, at 8:30 a.m., while the traditional service is still at the "traditional" worship time, 11:00 a.m. Classes are sandwiched in between, so fortunately, everyone gets to choose the worship service they prefer, whether it's the time or the style that drives the preference.

We had a bit of the usual fuss when the contemporary service began in the mid-'90s, although it seems silly now as so many churches offer contemporary worship. Most of us saw the addition of a contemporary service as a positive development and an exciting step in the life of our church. There is no doubt that it allowed for growth.

I think it's wonderful that we offer a choice, but I have to admit that I have also laughed at some of the terms that people used to describe the contemporary service. One friend, who attended the contemporary service, referred to it as Disco Mass. Someone else, who preferred the traditional service, referred to the contemporary music as "camp ditties". I still think that's pretty funny...and often spot on. Many of the contemporary songs (no, certainly not all of them) do have a Kumbaya quality to them, especially when they're repeated over and over and over and over again. I don't mind singing the same song 3 times, but after that, puleeze. Get out the marshmallows 'cause there had better be s'mores involved.

Over the years, both services have become more and more blended, which I love. It's the best of both styles with occasional hymns in the contemporary service, and praise choruses mixed into the traditional. True, we don't generally get to hear the fabulous praise band at 11:00, but then those who attend the contemporary service don't get to hear the fabulous choir.

I truly believe missing the choir is the greater loss. I hate that a generation has grown up in church without learning to appreciate the beauty of a choral anthem. So for those who don't know what they're missing, as well as for those who just love the sound of a choir, here's one of my favorites, "For the Beauty of the Earth", arranged by John Rutter, and performed by the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir.

Have a great week!

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5: 19-20


  1. I go to one of those contempory churches with the 'bands'. I don't like it. We've had two worship leaders - both lead singers in professional Christian rock bands.

    Each Sunday they give a concert - beefed up amps, flashing lights, swirling designs up on the screens.

    And the congregation listens. I sense very little worship to God and a whole lot of getting into the band.

    The few times a year there is more traditional music the change in the auditorium is amazing. There is singing... there is praise to God... there are hearts touched.

  2. There's nothing more frustrating than worship that makes the congregation feel like observers. Fortunately, even in our contemporary service, the congregation is encouraged to fully participate. At 8:30 though, a lot of people aren't all that alert. ;-)

  3. 'camp ditties!" hee hee! i love that.

    i am such a chameleon that i love both.
    what i don't like is a bad amalgamation of

    give me heartfelt worship, be it a traditional
    hymn or a sweet chorus. please don't feed
    me a mish mash of one or the other.

    the two distinct styles are glorious.

    thanks, margaret!

  4. I find myself singing choruses as much as hymns when I'm alone. But to me, a service that is all contemporary is like getting a white cake when I really wanted chocolate.

  5. I am a member of a Presbyterian (PCUSA-one of the conservative ones) and we have both services--I enjoy the high church service, although I also attend the contemporary service. I realize that it's now become a luxury to have both options in the same congregation.

  6. Great post. I attend a large Methodist church that offers both types of services and both are attended by people of all generations.

    Even though our contemporary services uses praise and worship music they still follow the liturgy of the traditional service so I think its a good compromise.

  7. "I don't mind singing the same song 3 times, but after that, puleeze. Get out the marshmallows 'cause there had better be s'mores involved."

    ROFL!!! I completely agree with you and I am of that generation that loves worship songs! I like a good mix of both...thankful the church I go to does just that!