Martin Luther once wrote, “The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them …. In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits…”
Over the course of this pandemic, I, like many of you, have taken the opportunity to experience a lot of the online worship experiences that our congregations have been offering. It’s been wonderful and I am so grateful for everyone who has worked so hard to make these services available to us. Of particular note, for me, has been the wonderful musical creativity that I have experienced, often by individuals and groups whose gifts for leading worship were newly discovered or newly utilized!
I don’t know about you, but when I have sung or experienced others singing or performing beautiful music at church, I feel as if I have worshipped. Conversely, it is difficult to feel that I have truly worshipped when our music is weak, doleful, and uninspired. Indeed, as highly as I regard the importance of the spoken Word in worship, I must admit that the sung Word has a much greater capacity to help me worship.
We live in an age that is blessed with an abundance of tremendously rich musical and liturgical resources representing all styles and genres. We have settings for every possible combination of instrumentation. Our musical menu includes a wealth of riches that transcend this time and space. How truly blessed we are!
But if music is so vital a part of our collective worship experience, why is so little support and attention given to ensuring a strong, healthy music programme in many of our parishes? Many of our church musicians are poorly compensated, poorly trained and inadequately supported. They do the best they can with what they’ve got but have the capacity to do so much more if only they were supported in doing so.
Does your congregation regularly review your church musician’s compensation schedule? Do you provide funding for ongoing training and continuing education? Do you provide adequate and well maintained instruments; or an annual budget for the purchase of new music resources? Do you provide opportunities for kids with musical gifts to share those gifts in worship? If you do – way to go! If not, why not?
I’ll give the last – albeit harsh – word, again, to Dr. Luther.
“A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” So there!