25 July 2010

Singing with the Faithful of Every Time and Place

An interesting essay on liturgical music from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music:

C. Michael Hawn, Singing with the Faithful of Every Time and Place: Thoughts on Liturgical Inculturation and Cross-Cultural Liturgy

The United Methodist bishop Joel Martínez noted at a conference in 1996 that "each generation must add its stanza to the great hymn of the church." I have found this a viable metaphor for understanding the range of congregational song available to us today. If we think of all Christian congregational song as comprising a grand hymn of the church throughout the ages, two thoughts come to mind immediately: (1) when singing a hymn, one does not begin on the final stanza but usually sings all of the stanzas, and furthermore, one does not usually stop on stanza three of a four- or five-stanza hymn; (2) the second point that this metaphor raises is a question: What does the stanza being shaped by Christians in this generation look and sound like? Looking at worship in general and congregational singing specifically through the lens of culture may open up some insight into this question.