Clergy and Musicians Creating Vibrant Worship Together:
A Musician's Perspective
J. MELVIN BUTLER
One of the most spiritually satisfying and rewarding parts of my job as a church musician is the actually planning of music for liturgies. I am blessed to work with liturgists and other clergy who are sensitive to the importance of careful planning and coordination of the various liturgical components: readings, prayers, responses, sermons, and music. Liturgy is the "work of the people" and, by extension, the work of the clergy and church musicians on behalf of the people.
In today's church, we find a multiplicity of worship styles and tastes, and parishioners who respond to different styles of music and liturgy, even within the same parish. Conflict often occurs when church musicians and clergy are either unwilling to work together to find the best and most meaningful worship materials, or when church musicians are unwilling even to consider their congregation's musical wishes or tastes. The use of "praise music," or more contemporary forms of service music, is disturbing, or at least controversial, for church musicians who have not studied or experimented in this style, and who have little tolerance for anything other than the most traditional and historic styles of service music. I am convinced that there is music of integrity in almost all areas of the musical spectrum, even music for "contemporary" worship. I am not a proponent of "praise choruses"; I do believe that a congregation can be weaned away from this music toward music of a more global nature, i. e., "world music." Folk music from other cultures, which I am thankful to find in many modern hymnals and supplements, can be exciting and creative for both the congregation and the musician. In the informal worship service at St. Mark's, one of our favorite responses is "Haleluya! Pelo tsa rona," an exciting South African folk song found in the Episcopal Hymnal Supplement Wonder, Love, and Praise, We accompany this song with piano and congas, and have even developed a "rota" of aspiring young conga players who take turns drumming on this response.
Worship is the center of the life of St. Mark's Cathedral. Two years ago St. Mark's produced a document entitled The Strategic Plan of St. Mark's Cathedral, a plan that outlines the goals of our cathedral for the next five to ten years and beyond. It is organized according to seven "Initiatives": Worship, The Arts, Faith Formation and Renewal, The Church in the World, Congregational Life and Pastoral Care, Our CathedralA Place for Ministry, and Governance.
The Worship Initiative states that
worship is central to our identity at St. Mark's Cathedral. Our
liturgies are vehicles for the journey of faith and encountering
the Divine, and offerings of beauty, revealing God's grace and
hope. As a Cathedral, our liturgies must be as expansive and soaring
as the space in which they are offered, always pointing to God
through images of the heavenly banquet that invite and celebrate
the incarnational nature of our faith in Christ.
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