What will enable this congregation to worship?

Musing on the various hymn/music memes going round, and pondering a way of gathering several thoughts and threads together. The question I want to ask is: what will enable this congregation to worship? The three parts each carry weight:

– what will enable – this is the end purpose in the choice of music (as of other elements) in a service. Will this get in the way, or will it allow those present to engage?

– this congregation – not congregations in general, not other congregations attending at other times of day, or times past or future, but this congregation here and now

– to worship – not be entertained or intellectually stimulated, have prejudices pandered to or preconceptions picked apart, but worship – to come into the presence of the living God in spirit and in truth, in adoration and thanksgiving.

So – a question, not an answer, but I think it’s a good question.

Another hymn meme, and some more good thoughts on music

We care so much about music in worship – and we care because it matters.

Some good thoughts from Tim here, and the Artsy Honker here, and I am shamelessly stealing this CS Lewis quote from the latter, which I love:

“There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God.

“The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.

“But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled with the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste – there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.”

My musical thought for the day: mindless and emotive worship music is popular (in some circles) because it is a corrective to the excessive rationalism promoted (in some circles) by our culture. It might explain the apparent paradox of brilliant IT nerds enjoying near-fundamentalist churches – it brings balance to their force 😉

Here’s the meme, again from Doug, who won’t let me escape…

1. Choose a hymn that you love to hate. It must be in a widely used and current hymn-book.
2. Say why.
3. Tag three people.

An honest answer would be ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ but I think that would be too easy. So a possibly controversial one:

1. Make me a channel of your peace.
2. A good prayer set to a difficult tune which is often murdered by a congregation that is unfamiliar with it. What makes it worse is that it is quite often chosen for funerals because people have been exposed to a good performance by a pop star (eg here) and the sentimental level is pushed up to 11. Blech.
3. I tag: Byron, Cranmer and Dave W.

Two predictions for The Dark Knight Rises

(Originally posted as a comment at Doug’s place, but I thought worth keeping for posterity!)

One of the rules of thumb for comics writers taking on one of the main established characters – eg Grant Morrison’s recent stuff – is that ‘do what you like but leave it how you found it’, in other words, you can have all sorts of fun taking the characters different places, and thereby exploring the character itself, but you have to leave it in a fit state for the next writer or user.

I have two suspicions about what Nolan is going to do with his final Batfilm:

1. the ‘rises’ bit is going to be a ‘resurrection’, ie Bane will do the Bane thing and defeat Batman. This will have the effect of bringing Gotham to its senses and realising that it does actually _want_ Batman – remember the ending of Dark Knight has Batman as a fugitive. So Batman will come back in the last third of the film, beat Bane, and the new status quo will be the ‘normal’ Batman universe.

2. Building on that, Nolan is going to put in place several ‘seeds’ which other people can take forward. So Hathaway is Selina Kyle, Gordon-Levitt is a proto-Robin, but I would guess we see neither in costume in the next film, there will just be lots of geek intimations for you and me to enjoy ;o) Could be completely wrong of course.