This past Sunday I recorded the last verse of our closing hymn: How Great Thou Art. Please take a second to listen: How great thou art-1. HFASS <—–click here
One of my non-negotiables going in to starting a church was that congregational singing be the primary musical expression of the gathered people of God. Not a band. Not an organ. Not a singer-songer writer strumming guitar chords. But the congregation itself. Singing together means breathing together. It means creating harmonies that cannot exist when we sing alone. It builds community and sustains us in a way that nothing else can.
The liturgy booklets at HFASS include the actual music. I know, very old fashioned of us. I think churches musically infantilize people when we assume that because they “can’t read music” that they can only manage lyrics projected on a screen. I myself cannot read music. But I can figure out that when the note goes up, I sing up and when it goes down I sing down and that notes with dots at the end are a little longer. That’s about all I or anyone else needs to know and when faced with an unfamiliar piece of music I have a great deal more chance to participate in singing it if I see the music than if you only give me the lyrics.
It has taken us awhile to become the singing congregation we are. We have a cantor who leads the “choral guild” – a group of people (whoever wants to show up) who come 40 minutes early every Sunday to learn the harmonies so they can sit among the congregation and help support the singing.
Churches CAN learn to sing together. I implore you to not leave music to the professionals because it belongs to all of us. Singing together is a human birthright not just something the congregation is invited to do if they feel like it while listening to the real musicians make all the music for them.