upper room daily devotions

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Neil Young's Hymn and Cultural Relevance in Worship

Churches can easily be caught up in culture wars. I don't just mean cultural issues like abortion or homosexuality, either. Rather, the cultures of many congregations are stuck solidly in the 1950 (or possibly the 1960s if you have lots of Boomers in the congregation). Culture wars reveal themselves in a number of places, most pointedly in the music we use. If faithfulness is the most important aspect of worship, it is vital for us to honor the power of cultural contexts without becoming divided by culture. We become sidetracked from our purpose: to honor and praise God, to be inspired by the proclamation of the Word, and to be transformed by God's holy sacraments. True worship isn't about us, it is about God and for God. The joy is that when worship is oriented in a God-cetered way, we receive the benefits - our souls are comforted, our spirits lifted, our hearts touched, and our lives transformed.

Several years ago Neil Young wrote a hymn called "When God Made Me." Is this a song that could be sung in your church? Or is it too human-centric and too musically dated for a postmodern congregation?

I've been wondering about how to maintain the integrity and power of traditional liturgy while presenting a culturally relevant worship service. Are there worship services equally comfortable with gospel, hymns from the 1600s, music from the 80s, and music written today? Every now and then I run across a worship service that deeply moves me. Usually this occurs when I find some kind of familiarity in the liturgy, a lot of honesty in the liturgy, comfort with silence in the service, a joyful expression of the sacraments, and music that is indigenous and intentional - intentional in its place in the service, its theology, and its musicality.

So, is Neil welcome in your service. If not, who is? And how does the overall liturgy include a variety of musical expressions that are found in our culture today?


Karla Fredericksen said...

I don't know about the church, but I really like this. I might even introduce it to my congregation when I figure out the logistics of the projector and where to put the screen. Soon we will be in the 21st Century at DMUMC!!
This is also a very pertinent subject for us right now - we are wanting a TRULY contemporary service, and of course as many old folks as there are they don't really understand what that means. (We keep the older traditional service, of course, for them!) But we are looking to hire a good Worship Leader who is talented with a lead instrument and singing abilities, so we can get moving on this.

rev katie m ladd said...

I think you've hit the nail right on the head. For many years churches have had a "choir director." While very talented, their main job has been to selected choral pieces for a voluntary choir. A "worship leader" is someone who thinks more broadly about the whole service and how music supports the intended goals of the service.

Good luck at Des Moines!

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