From One End Of The Spectrum

Church Isn't Group Therapy or Mere Entertainment

(from http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/2012/08/church-isnt-group-therapy-or-mere.html)

excerpt:

Christians are not just secular people with secular values attending a weekly talent show and sing-a-long. If worship is entirely driven by the congregation's taste and demands, then it has very little to do with praising God and serving Him.

While I do not necessarily disagree, I do think it oversimplifies the issue in two ways. Let me be "devil's advocate:"

  1. Is it possible that someone could level the same criticisms toward a traditional/liturgical service that includes a talented and showy organist?

Is there not a certain entertainment value or "talent show" dimension to a service that employs soloists or a choir? Are virtuosic hymn preludes not guilty of crossing the line between reverential worship and entertainment?

  1. Isn't it a bit unfair to totally bypass a congregation's "tastes and demands?"

A congregant in an 18th-century church would probably find a four-part chorale harmonization to be relatively familiar. Its musical style would seem fairly closely aligned with their tastes. Indeed, for them at that time, it might have been regarded as "contemporary Christian Music." A modern individual (comparing the same--but now centuries-old--hymn) might find it less familiar. In other words, the farther we are removed from the "golden age of Christian hymnody," the more foriegn and difficult modern listeners will find it.

Do we find examples of 14th-century theologians rejecting the musical novelty of their day (say, polyphony)?

Are we being unfair and rigid to our modern parishoners by asking them to musically digest a style of music equally foreign to them?

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