minutia press.
Informal worsihp

I substituted yesterday at organ at Parkway United Church of Christ. They have a great room for music, and their organ is a Quimby organ -- a builder from Missouri whose organs I had not played before. It's a nice instrument, just the right size for the room. It was an easy service to play, with just 3 simple hymns and a choir anthem. There was a surprise choral benediction at the end, but the choir decided to go for it a capella so I didn't have to play that. The service was in danger of running long, so I cut the offeratory short (probably to the relief of all) the moment the ushers were ready to bring the donations up front.

The minister spoke well; the choir sounded fine. So why am I posting about this?

The church has two services, one "traditional" and one "informal". The informal service (probably) has more modern music, more singing, and less talking.

The trend of offering informal services of that kind seems to be happening everywhere. When I played organ in NY at Saint Patrick's (which now has a flash introduciton) of Yorktown Heights, I played for what started out as the teenage choir. It evolved to include slightly older people, and then markedly older people, but the music stayed the same: a mix of (Catholic) folk, contemporary, and some relatively ancient music. The mass was attended to the point of overflowing, and (thanks to Kathey Lewis and Rick Dalby) the music was always well done and appreciated greatly by the parishoners.

Some of my colleagues of the organ bench see the demise of relgious music as we know it, at the hands of those who would replace traditional music with "praise singing" or more modern forms of music at religious services. In the Jewish reform morevement, it's been a relatively modern thing to have instruments accompany song, to have modern and alternative tunes to songs, and to sing anything other than the standard 2 or 3 hymns at services. In his book Why Catholics Can't Sing, Thomas Day points out some of the shortcomings of both the old and the new, but without much of a suggestion as to how to "fix things", if they are broken.

Personally, I am moved by all kinds of music, and I feel a spiritual connection when I am part of a group of people who are similarly moved by music. It's not much fun to be in a congregation where nobody is singing. It's not surprising that each generation seeks its own tune, its own form of musical expression. It's not surprising that some people feel threatened by change, but I don't hear those people singing so stridently anymore at their services.

Open minds and ears might lead to more open spirituality, but time will tell.


As someone who went to high school run by monks, I was horrified when I went to mass at the Catholic Student Center. I was used to very traditional songs and very somber services, instead of the dancing in the aisles and almost gospel church like atmosphere here.

Anyway, I prefer traditional over modern anyday. (Especially since church at home is 45 minutes compared to an 1 hour and 35 minutes here).

Posted by: Ed at October 13, 2003 9:18 AM

Take this!

Posted by: Kato at October 13, 2003 6:03 PM

Ok that link didn't do so much with the linking.

Posted by: Kato at October 13, 2003 6:04 PM

Sigh, guess I better start grading..

Posted by: rkc at October 13, 2003 11:43 PM