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martin_greenwood

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If you want a performance, yes. But we are not talking about performance - we're talking about worship. I, as a committed Christian as well as a not very expert Organist, would far prefer to have a competent but not expert Christian leading worship than an expert non-believer performing.

 

With regard to the original question, the important matters to me with regard to church music are:

 

1) It doesn't matter what instrument is playing, but whoever plays it should be able to do so musically, rhythmically, and without too many mistakes. One of the problems, musically speaking, with some music groups is that their members are there for pastoral rather than musical reasons, not always to the benefit of the sound produced.

 

2) It doesn't matter, either, what style of music is played - 'trad' SATB & Organ, guitar and choruses - whatever. What does matter is that the music in question is good. That doesn't automatically exclude any particular style, but does exclude anything that sets one's teeth on edge. That includes not just the trash that passes for music in the chorus style, but also far too much of the tuneless rubbish played on R3 Choral Evensong - and so presumably in our great churches also.

 

3) It matters, above all else, that the performer(s) mean what they are doing. It isn't enough to be competent - I like them to be involved in worship, not just performing. I realise that in a Cathedral or Collegiate setting that may be difficult, and I do not intend to criticise those members of this board who find faith difficult, but nonetheless love the music that the faith has inspired. That is not an area in which I have much experience - I am speaking of the ordinary parish church, with maybe fifty or so members, no access to skilled musicians, not enough money to do much about it, with other priorities (like the pastoral care of parishioners, or keeping the roof on) for what funds they do have, struggling to keep the ship afloat and minister to those in their care. That is the true situation of many, perhaps even most, of the churches up and down this country.

 

Finally, a plea. I realise that inevitably this board attracts musicians - that's why I read it most days - and those who love this monstrous instrument we love so much (and I do). But the church is not there to perform music, of any style or age. It is there to minister the Gospel, and music is just a part - to me and most of us, a very important part - of that aim.

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

Well said

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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P

There is also the question whether the church in a broad sense, having commissioned or otherwise stimulated (and for me as an individual that is the only good point about it) centuries of fine music for whatever reason, should accept its responsibility adequately to curate, to preserve, to make available that music which is such an important part of western art music. To seek to avoid diluting it with 'music' which cannot compare. To be a guardian of the intellectual capital which this music history and body of work represents.

 

Sorry - that is NOT what the church is about. It's not a museum, and the preservation of buildings, organs, or traditions is, at best, an extremely peripheral matter.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Actually, I think that this is part of the problem. See J Maslen's quote below:

There seems to be this attitude amongst some of the clergy (of any denomination) that anyone can turn up with an instrument and play in a 'music group' - and thus 'lead' the worship, particularly if they need emotional support, or some other form of propping-up. (The use of inverted commas is quite deliberate.)

 

Practically, this simply does not work - and it is no wonder that many professional musicians get upset about it. Think about the consequences if this attitude were to be extended to the sermons, although God knows, I am fairly certain that I could do better than some of the visiting speakers with whom we are afflicted at the Minster, on occasion. We once had a woman from Poole Social Serivces to 'preach' at Choral Evensong. She started shortly after 19h05 - and was still droning on in a monotone, at 19h40. The choristers were utterly bored and restless - as were most of the rest of us. In addition, she read almost every word from a sheaf of A4 file paper. By 19h30, I could, with a clear conscience, cheerfully have taken her out with a crossbow.

 

Hi

 

For the record -I've had this happen a couple of times, and I have refused to allow them to play until they have attended a couple of rehearsals and that I'm confident of their musical ability and Christian faith.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I've seen some of the problems that can arise when anyone who is working for a church, but who doesn't believe, can cause - and organists (and other musicians) have a responsibility to lead worship - and you cannot do that properly if it's just an intellectual exercise and you don't believe and have faith in the object of that worship, no matter how brilliant a musican you may be.

 

I don't agree with this statement. Can you describe what you mean by doing it "properly"? I had a similar debate on another forum and the outcome was that it was felt that knowing an organist was not a believer somehow 'tarnished' a believer's opinion about the organist's performance and their contribution to worship.

 

Of course, in a "blind listening", being an organist of faith or not would make no difference at all, it was just troubling on a personal level for that believer. Is it not therefore just a human failing to be affected by such a subjective matter?

 

If clergy want the church to be inclusive, they should be prepared to accept non-believers who can do the job and do it well. Who knows, perhaps it will be a route for them into the faith. I would think at the very least any non-believer would be in sympathy with the environment - why be a church organist in the first place?

 

Can you explain what some of the problems are that you've experienced? Do we infer that you've never had any problems with an organist/musician of faith?

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Of course, in a "blind listening", being an organist of faith or not would make no difference at all, it was just troubling on a personal level for that believer. Is it not therefore just a human failing to be affected by such a subjective matter?

 

If clergy want the church to be inclusive, they should be prepared to accept non-believers who can do the job and do it well. Who knows, perhaps it will be a route for them into the faith. I would think at the very least any non-believer would be in sympathy with the environment - why be a church organist in the first place?

Spot on.

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Guest Lee Blick
Hi

 

I've been involved in church music since I was 9. I've been a Baptist Minister for 14 years now, so I've actually served God as a musician for longer than as a minister. I've been organist at a number of churches of different denominations, and had some involvement in Contemporary Christian Music.

 

During that time, I've seen some of the problems that can arise when anyone who is working for a church, but who doesn't believe, can cause - and organists (and other musicians) have a responsibility to lead worship - and you cannot do that properly if it's just an intellectual exercise and you don't believe and have faith in the object of that worship, no matter how brilliant a musican you may be. The relevant, primary, trait for a church musician is their faith in God. Since that's a prime requirement (or should be) of the job description, there's no issue with asking! Apart from that, the Christian faith is NOT a private matter - we are called to "make disciples" (Matt 28:19) and to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15). this is not negotiable.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

But surely, Tony, the Christian Church is not a social or golf club with adherents signing up to membership on agreeing to abiding by the rules and regulations.

 

If a musician who has little or no faith is taken aboard then surely that is a small seed planted with the potential of spiritual growth. Isn't that the responsibility of the pastor and members of the church to nurture such potential?

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Guest Barry Williams

The logical conclusion of some of this thread is to deny the use of music in church that has been composed by atheists, agnostics and those whose faith does not come up to a perceived standard, in which case a significant proportion of the repertoire would disappear, including many well-known hymns.

 

Quoting very short sections of the Bible to support arguments can have unfortunate results. There must be regard for the circumstances in which the words were written or spoken and the people to whom the comments were addressed.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Lee Blick
The logical conclusion of some of this thread is to deny the use of music in church that has been composed by atheists, agnostics and those whose faith does not come up to a perceived standard, in which case a significant proportion of the repertoire would disappear, including many well-known hymns.

 

Quoting very short sections of the Bible to support arguments can have unfortunate results. There must be regard for the circumstances in which the words were written or spoken and the people to whom the comments were addressed.

 

Barry Williams

 

I guess an extension of that which afflicts certain parts of the Christian faith, should the Christian church allow lesbian and gays in prominent leadership positions? Should the Christian church be performing music by gay composers?

 

To me it doesn't matter whether someone is an atheist or gay. But to some Christians it does and some of them can get quite judgemental and militant about it.

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Guest Barry Williams
I guess an extension of that which afflicts certain parts of the Christian faith, should the Christian church allow lesbian and gays in prominent leadership positions? Should the Christian church be performing music by gay composers?

 

To me it doesn't matter whether someone is an atheist or gay. But to some Christians it does and some of them can get quite judgemental and militant about it.

 

"If a musician who has little or no faith is taken aboard then surely that is a small seed planted with the potential of spiritual growth. Isn't that the responsibility of the pastor and members of the church to nurture such potential? "

 

 

I know of several distinguished church musicians and cathedral organists whose initial contact with the church has been through music. It was that which brought them to be Christians.

 

Lee has again hit the unpleasant nail firmly on the head. I agree with him but would put it differently: the difficulties arise because the church is very far removed from the teachings of Jesus Christ. The church is based on the teaching of a follower rather than the founder.

 

On a slightly different tack, the tension between the differing views on this thread is between that of an objective approach and those who prefer music to appeal more directly, whilst having a veneer in the form of Biblical words. The phenomenon is not new. After all the tune for 'O Sacred Head Sore Wounded' was originally a love song: "My hear is rent asunder by a maiden's tender charms" and 'The Duteous day now closeth' was a seedy song entitled 'O Innsbruck ere I leave Thee'.

 

The phenomenon was known in the Old Testament. See Ezekiel 33 verse 32, but take care here, for the Hebrew is not well translated. 'Agabeem' is better rendered as 'relating to acts of love' than 'song' which makes the point even more strongly.

 

Those who want choristers and the music group properly trained should see I Chronicles 25 verses 1-7 where the sons of Asaph etc were 'instructed in the songs of the Lord', and II Chronicles 23 verse 13 with reference to 'taught to sing praise'. There are numerous other similar references that indicate expertise was expected.

 

Songs of the 'worship group' type may have a legitimate function in expressing an experience or feeling. However, much of the time they seem to be used to induce a feeling or emotion. Such an appeal to the emotions was discussed fully in 'Conversions, Psychological and Spiritual' by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones who wrote: " We must never in the first place, make a direct approach either to the emotions or the will. The emotions and the will should always be influenced through the mind. Truth is intended to come to the mind, "not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; that by your faith should nto stand in the wisdom of men, but by the power of God."'

 

The constant love of the direct appeal to the emotions engenders a renewal of the conversion experience, so that worship becomes a puppy basket of comfort, denying spiritual progress and maturity. It is the concern about this that seems to underly the criticisms of some Board members of the so-called 'worship group' type of music. For the avoidance of doubt choirs and congregations (the latter term includes the choir, servers, readers, etc,) ARE the worship group.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest drd
To me it doesn't matter whether someone is an atheist or gay. But to some Christians it does and some of them can get quite judgemental and militant about it.

 

That's one of the interesting things about this debate.

 

Presumably the remedy for Tony Newnham's point is that churches should not appoint anyone who is an atheist, or an agnostic, or an adherent of a different god? But how could they really know for certain?

 

Since I had my doubts I no longer take part as a musician or otherwise in church affairs, except insofar as I am personally invited to do so either as an adviser on purely musical matters, or as a performer in a concert. (Just to make things clear.)

 

Fundamentally, though, someone's beliefs or otherwise are their own private matter - to me it seems an infringement of human rights to question them about it. Whether for 'employment' or otherwise.

 

I can see that believers feel that they have, or at least some of them have, a personal project to seek to convert others to their way of thinking. But it runs the risk of being like any other form of advertising, and put off the intended audience. They have a right to do it, though, in the same way that someone who feels strongly that there is no foundation in this sort of belief also has a right to advertise that point of view in a free society.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
During that time, I've seen some of the problems that can arise when anyone who is working for a church, but who doesn't believe, can cause - and organists (and other musicians) have a responsibility to lead worship - and you cannot do that properly if it's just an intellectual exercise and you don't believe and have faith in the object of that worship, no matter how brilliant a musican you may be. The relevant, primary, trait for a church musician is their faith in God. Since that's a prime requirement (or should be) of the job description, there's no issue with asking! Apart from that, the Christian faith is NOT a private matter - we are called to "make disciples" (Matt 28:19) and to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15). this is not negotiable.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Sorry, no. The relevant, primary, trait for church musicians is their willingness to use their talents to support Christian worship. It obviously doesn't make sense to some people here that they could carry out an activity with Christian significance without 'believing' (however you wish to define or limit that term). I beg to differ. God is glorified in God's creation, including ourselves, whether we intend it or not.

 

The organ, of course, is likely to give God most glory, as it was obviously handed down directly from heaven, God having clearly worked on it during his day of rest. ;)

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Guest Patrick Coleman
That's one of the interesting things about this debate.

 

Since I had my doubts I no longer take part as a musician or otherwise in church affairs, except insofar as I am personally invited to do so either as an adviser on purely musical matters, or as a performer in a concert. (Just to make things clear.)

 

I for one am sorry that doubts keep you from using a talent in worship. We are all the losers for it.

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Guest Barry Williams
Sorry, no. The relevant, primary, trait for church musicians is their willingness to use their talents to support Christian worship. It obviously doesn't make sense to some people here that they could carry out an activity with Christian significance without 'believing' (however you wish to define or limit that term). I beg to differ. God is glorified in God's creation, including ourselves, whether we intend it or not.

 

The organ, of course, is likely to give God most glory, as it was obviously handed down directly from heaven, God having clearly worked on it during his day of rest. ;)

 

The comments that Mr Coleman has made encapsulate the primary reason for the inadequacy of a certain type of theology that makes many people feel uncomfortable. Indeed, the biggest criticism of the 'Alpha Course' which is popular in these circles, is its total lack of creation theology.

 

I suspect that a large number of Board members will have serious reservations about the style adopted by those churches that term themselves 'evangelical' (which they are usually not because of their methods and approach,) but it is good to have the issues articulated so neatly and with such authority from a minister.

 

Barry Williams

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to use their talents to support Christian worship.

Yes, but ... it's not just about music, is it? The hymns and anthems you put down on the music list have words to them, and while musicians aren't normally trained in the theology behind those words, they are responsible for putting them into the mouths of their choirs and congregations. These words will form some part (a great deal, in the case of choristers) of their understanding of the Christian faith.

 

One of the strongest criticisms made of Contemporary Christian songs, perhaps more so in the Catholic church where these things seem to matter more, is that many of their texts ignore or even contradict the church's Eucharistic dogmas. Therefore, some formation in theology and liturgy is required on the part of the people responsible for choosing what to use, in order that they avoid, as the church might see it, leading the people into error. Now you may have no patience with such considerations, but surely it's reasonable for the church to want to.

 

The consequence of that is, I suppose, that it doesn't make much difference whether the Master of the Musicke is a believer or not - just as, in the last analysis, the same thing is true of the individual clergyperson. What matters is what they actually say and do, and whether you think that there's any point singing with the lips - and encouraging others, especially children - to sing with their lips if they themselves don't believe with their hearts.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
One of the strongest criticisms made of Contemporary Christian songs, perhaps more so in the Catholic church where these things seem to matter more, is that many of their texts ignore or even contradict the church's Eucharistic dogmas. Therefore, some formation in theology and liturgy is required on the part of the people responsible for choosing what to use, in order that they avoid, as the church might see it, leading the people into error. Now you may have no patience with such considerations, but surely it's reasonable for the church to want to.

 

It's my job to ensure the orthodoxy and suitability of what's sung in the churches entrusted to my cure - and if I maintain a proper relationship with the creativity of our musicians, then we can ensure that what is sung is correct.

 

But I think you are also questioning the integrity of those who believe they have no faith, and suggesting that they would take up church positions without respecting their liturgical and theological role. It is a common error on the part of those of all religions and none to assume that those they disagree with are not able with integrity to exercise roles outside whatever belief system they happen to subscribe to.

 

Part of the significance of what I tried to say in my post of yesterday evening is that in music we share a link with the divine - the other - which is part of all our experience, whether or not we name it in religious terms. I can think of no better God-given meeting place for all of us whose human vision is so limited - and if we fail to understand the words, or disagree on their import, I'm afraid this is at best a secondary consideration.

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During that time, I've seen some of the problems that can arise when anyone who is working for a church, but who doesn't believe, can cause - and organists (and other musicians) have a responsibility to lead worship - and you cannot do that properly if it's just an intellectual exercise and you don't believe and have faith in the object of that worship, no matter how brilliant a musican you may be.

And here's a thing. Choirs share with the organist (and/or music group) the responsibility of leading the musical worship. Yet while I have encountered priests and others who insist that an organist must be a communicating Christian in order to do the job, I do not believe that one of them would refuse to admit a child to the choir unless they were already a believer. I wonder why. Double standards?

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in music we share a link with the divine - the other - which is part of all our experience, whether or not we name it in religious terms. I can think of no better God-given meeting place for all of us whose human vision is so limited - and if we fail to understand the words, or disagree on their import, I'm afraid this is at best a secondary consideration.

I think this sums up in a nutshell why I value church music so much - it's ability to transport me and, hopefully, others into a spiritual communion above the mundane. It is not necessary to believe in God to experience this, but those who do will draw added strength from it.

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Guest Barry Williams
And here's a thing. Choirs share with the organist (and/or music group) the responsibility of leading the musical worship. Yet while I have encountered priests and others who insist that an organist must be a communicating Christian in order to do the job, I do not believe that one of them would refuse to admit a child to the choir unless they were already a believer. I wonder why. Double standards?

 

 

Such double standards make a lot of people uncomfortable with some styles of church.

 

Double standards have no support in the Bible. It is these 'beliefs' or even doctrines in many cases, by whatever terminology, that give rise to the impression that those whose belief is not of a particular style, are not welcome when they attend worship with their own struggle for faith.

 

The certainty of belief that some insist on from their musicians is an expression of their own comfort zone rather than the application of a standard to the musicians. Churches that have no room for doubters are introspective and self-satisfying.

 

Barry Williams

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But I think you are also questioning the integrity of those who believe they have no faith, and suggesting that they would take up church positions without respecting their liturgical and theological role.

No, that's very black and white, which wasn't what I meant to imply, though I suppose my argument comes close to that. I was thinking more about the relative priorities that liturgical/theological/muscial considerations might take.

 

 

It is a common error on the part of those of all religions and none to assume that those they disagree with are not able with integrity to exercise roles outside whatever belief system they happen to subscribe to.

True, but you could use that logic to suggest that the clergy need not believe anything either. Or would you draw a line there?

 

Anyway, in many robed choirs, it is common to conclude practice with the Chorister's prayer. How can one, with integrity, teach and encourage children to entreat an entity which one does not oneself believe to exist, that that entity shall help those children to believe in it?

 

Perhaps I'm saying that if a church wishes to appoint a non-believing O&C, then it creates a whole bunch of other problems, which, while not unmanageable, would not exist were the candidate to be a believer.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
No, that's very black and white, which wasn't what I meant to imply, though I suppose my argument comes close to that. I was thinking more about the relative priorities that liturgical/theological/muscial considerations might take.

True, but you could use that logic to suggest that the clergy need not believe anything either. Or would you draw a line there?

 

It's in the nature of clergy to be an explicit sacramental representation of Jesus and his actions. I don't think it is possible to be ordained and not believe in him. The detail of that belief is another question.

 

As I said, it's my business to safeguard the priorities - it's the business of the musicians to make sure the music is of the same high quality as the liturgy and theology. Why should I expect the highest professional standards of them if I don't maintain the highest standards myself?

 

There is a tendency abroad to want to look into people's souls. Part of the Anglican genius has been to refuse to do that. It is a large part of the reason why I am Anglican.

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It's in the nature of clergy to be an explicit sacramental representation of Jesus and his actions. I don't think it is possible to be ordained and not believe in him. The detail of that belief is another question.

 

As I said, it's my business to safeguard the priorities - it's the business of the musicians to make sure the music is of the same high quality as the liturgy and theology. Why should I expect the highest professional standards of them if I don't maintain the highest standards myself?

 

There is a tendency abroad to want to look into people's souls. Part of the Anglican genius has been to refuse to do that. It is a large part of the reason why I am Anglican.

A precentor announced the Apostle's Creed at Evensong in an English cathedral about 30 years ago: I believe in God. A nearby lay clerk answered: no you don't.

 

One of the advantages of Judaism, as I understand it, is that congregants are under no obligation to declare their faith. I suppose it is anathema to many, if not most, orthodox Christians that "going through the motions" has any spitirual worth, indeed there is something in the 39 Articles about those who "visibly bite" the communion bread with their teeth but eat not the divine food or something. But I can imagine how there can be a spiritual growth through observance without straighforward belief, indeed many young choristers, starting out at an age when belief can hardly be fully-formed, become mature Christians in the end. I applaud Patrick's acknowledgement of "the Anglican genius" to refuse to look into people's souls.

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But surely, Tony, the Christian Church is not a social or golf club with adherents signing up to membership on agreeing to abiding by the rules and regulations.

 

If a musician who has little or no faith is taken aboard then surely that is a small seed planted with the potential of spiritual growth. Isn't that the responsibility of the pastor and members of the church to nurture such potential?

 

Hi

 

Yes - there is a responsibility to nurture - and I would have no problem with someone of "little faith" as you put it - but a self-confessed atheist or agnostic is a very different matter when it comes to leading worship.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest drd
Hi

 

Yes - there is a responsibility to nurture - and I would have no problem with someone of "little faith" as you put it - but a self-confessed atheist or agnostic is a very different matter when it comes to leading worship.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

 

This is not intended to be trivial or mischievous, but is a point which I wonder about.

 

What about a self-confessed adherent to another, non-Judaeo-Christian, nor Muslim, faith, who does not advertise that fact, but who outwardly conforms with certain elements of Anglican religious practice? (I know one or two who are accomplished musicians.) (I.e. not an atheist, or an agnostic, but of a different theism.)

 

[i realise that Christians would regard someone who is, for example, a witch as, presumably, mad, but that there are adherents to that particular faith is incontrovertible.]

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By behaving as though I believe in X, I encourage others to believe in X also, particularly if I take a leading role in an organisation responsible for the propogation of belief X. Such people may feel betrayed if, some time later, they find I was a subscriber to belief Y. Don't I have a responsibility to make that clear at the time? Where is the integrity here?

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What about a self-confessed adherent to another, non-Judaeo-Christian, nor Muslim, faith, who does not advertise that fact, but who outwardly conforms with certain elements of Anglican religious practice? (I know one or two who are accomplished musicians.) (I.e. not an atheist, or an agnostic, but of a different theism.)

 

I think I may know who you mean - first name initial "D"?

Peter

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