doing church without singing (or, getting out of our God-rut)

I like going to church at 7:45 a.m.

That’s when St. Matthew’s Episcopal has its Rite I service, which is advertised as “quiet” and “traditional.”

I like it because there are about 25 people there, and when you exchange the peace, you hit pretty much everybody.

I like it because the service is 45 minutes long—not that I’m in a rush or anything, but you can get a lot done in that time if you’re not feeling the pressure of recreating the wheel from scratch each Sunday and trying to get “everything in.”

I like it because there is no music.

Let me go on record that I like church music and I connect with a wide range of genres. And what I don’t like I keep my mouth shut about, because there are people around me who do like it, and no one died to make me the church boss.

Anyway, no music is a change from what I have always experienced in non-liturgical church settings, where you are hit with a wall of music as soon as you walk in the door, and all the rest that happens seems to be centered around largely performance based music. That’s not a judgment, but just how I experienced it.

Without music, “all there is” is the reading Scripture, prayer, confessions, Eucharist, and the trademark 12 minute homily (which encourages getting to the point quickly and effectively, praise God, but I digress).

Without music, I find I focus more on the readings and prayers–I hang on to them, so to speak, because I’m not waiting for them to be done so we can get to the singing. What I’m doing at the moment becomes the point.

So, for me, it’s a nice change not to have music. We do sing he doxology, though. Gotta sing the doxology.

I guess what all this amounts to is that Rite I is a change of pace for me as a lifelong church goer. If I were raised on this, a lot of singing would be my change of pace–which I know is the experience others have had.

All of which is to say there are multiple ways of doing church, and God can be found in any of them. And maybe changing it up a bit now and then helps keep us out of our God-ruts.

 

  • Bartholomew

    Nice post. I think I too need a break from my evangelical mega church with our rock and roll band, lights, giveaways, etc.

    However I do have a question I hope people on this blog can help me with. How do you answer a pastor who holds the view that spending time on blogs like this or going to a church like Pete talks about is a distraction because the most important thing is saving souls. The attitude is that a church of 25 people is not making a big difference in the evangelism of the world. Also, discussions about inspiration is also keeping us from sharing the gospel and leading people to Christ. The general view is we will figure these things out when we get to heaven but we need to make sure that we get as many people into heaven as possible.

    What are people’s thoughts on this?

    • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

      Bartholomew, in my humble opinion, there is no need to answer a pastor who holds such a view. Any answer is unlikely to change him or the congregation.
      On the other hand, I think we can answer the question for ourselves. My answer is that the Father loves us and seeks a relationship with us; he offers us relief from our fears and feelings of alienation, and he promises us eternal life.
      Our sharing this good news helps people in life today by bringing peace and comfort, but our ‘leading people to Christ’ is not what gets them to ‘heaven’–God has already taken care of that. Sharing the good news is relational rather than a sales campaign and can be done effectively in a small congregation or even one-on-one.

    • CalledtoQuestion

      The Evangelical church, as far as I have witnessed, is a church for extraverts. Theses are the types of personalities that Evangelical Pastors want and attract. Because extraverts are more assertive they are more desired within churches that hold the salvation of souls, or should I say the statistics, as a priority. Extraverts have a rapid production line, but this becomes evident in the low quality of relationships that often break down and fall apart. Introverts are more contemplative so the process of saving souls, if that is the priority, is a longer process, which many Evangelical Pastors have no patience for. The introvert is slower in production but what they produce tends to be a well crafted piece of work that has had many hours involved in the making.

      As for getting more numbers into heaven:
      Christian Philosopher Peter Kreeft shared a wonderful point
      about this type of concern when someone inquired about the concept of ‘the fewness of the saved’. To this inquiry he responded by sharing his belief that God is not a statistician who is doing the math on how many people will enter and how many people will not. So when the scripture discusses that the road to heaven is narrow and few will find it, God, again, is not speaking as a statistician, but rather as a father who losing even one child amongst a million others will have one to few. Make sense? So it is not a matter of many will not find their way but a matter that if only one, out of all human history, does not enter, that would be one to many absent. The one absent is too great a number missing in the heart of a father.

      • Rick

        “The Evangelical church, as far as I have witnessed, is a church for extraverts. Theses are the types of personalities that Evangelical Pastors want and attract. Because extraverts are more assertive they are more desired within churches that hold the salvation of souls, or should I say the statistics, as a priority. ”
        That may be true, but that is not to say the pastors are extraverts. I know of at least 1 megachurch pastor (of one of the largest churches in the country), that is an introvert.

        • CalledtoQuestion

          You are right, not all pastors are extraverts, nor are all their attendees, but those that are not extraverts will tend to go unnoticed and often neglected in regards to the needs of an introvert being met. Mega churches have so many pastors, that I can not imagine that a mega church would not have an introvert pastor; especially when there are Pastors of everything: Children’s Ministries, Worship, Small group, Youth, Young Adult, Finance, Missions; I could go on and on. An introvert can, at times, find it easy enough to stand in front of a very large group and give a message, especially when they have a team of pastors supporting them, but put them amongst the people and it becomes a different matter.

          • Bryan

            As an introvert, I find the opposite to be true of myself. Large crowds are a no-go but one-on-one conversations or small groups are great.

        • Bryan

          Good point. Susan Cain, in her book “Quiet”, discusses a section on Evangelicals and extraverts. In particular, she examines Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and interviews one individual who laments that there is not much room for introverts.

    • Guest

      Speaking as one of the “souls” the church has “lost”. It’s men like your pastor who keep me away.

    • DMH

      As a husband and father I get that my actions, choices, and words have a significant influence (sometimes a determining influence) on others. When it comes to ones “eternal destiny” however, I can’t believe that God has left it to incidentals (such as myself). I think your pastors vision/concept of god is too small. God is active and involved in peoples lives and plays any determining roll there might be in terms of influence. Gods love is wide and open- perhaps your pastor has narrowed it down too much. Like Gods love, or perhaps mirroring Gods love, the churches mission can not be narrowed down to “saving souls” (however defined).

  • CalledtoQuestion

    I grew up attending a large German Mennonite church in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This was an era when only old hymns were sung and the only instrument allowed to accompany the music was a massive gothic-like organ. I can remember when all ‘Hell’ broke lose when the prospect of acoustic and electric guitars and drums were introduced to the worship. In my later teens I began attending evangelical worship services where the music was upbeat, emotional and hypnotic. Once I grew up and had multiple life altering transitional periods, I began to attend a very small Anglican church. I really enjoyed it, the people there were intelligent, the service was quiet and I loved being a part of it all through reading the BCP aloud with everyone else.

  • http://www.myfullemptynest.wordpress.com/ myfullemptynest

    Is that a typo in the title? More importantly, thank you for this.

    • peteenns

      Yikes. Typo fixed. Thanks!!!!

  • Mike Mercer

    Excellent, Pete. I have attended similar services in the Lutheran church. What a concept! Can God really “show up” without us manipulating people’s emotions through music and staging? I’m afraid you’ve unmasked a few of our idols today.

  • Jim

    What, no “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs at 7:45 am?

  • rvs

    –Emerson: “I liked the silence before church better than any preaching.” Also, Jim’s note below is funny.

  • David

    I like the language of Rite I in some places better than in Rite II, but also have found the use of the hymnal and what I guess you could call more Worship-of-God-for-the-simple-fact-that-he-is-God songs soothing compared to my more evangelical upbringing, where, much as with your experience, it’s all about the band and the speaker, like I’m going to a weekly conference rather than meeting with God’s People to do “the work of the people” in worshiping God, sharing in and studying the Word, and celebrating the Eucharist. Great post!

  • Darryl Stringer

    We don’t have any music in our little house church (I can only think of a couple of occasions where we have sung a song corporately). As you point out, Pete, this isn’t for everyone but it works well for us. Low on maintenance, high on sharing / teaching / giving / feasting.

    • Megaman

      While people are going to hell, you are sharing and feasting in your home church. As Rick Warren says, “it’s not about you”. God wants us to share the gospel with others. Big, contemporary churches are the ones doing that.

      • beau_quilter

        Maybe God could just refrain from torturing people eternally. That would be nice.

      • Darryl Stringer

        You clearly don’t know our church. My non-church attending next door neighbour became a regular attendee at our house church (it wasn’t hard to get to when it’s only next door) – she never came along to our “big, contemporary church” that we used to attend. And when I was at that big church, I could name less than 5 non-churched people over 15 years who came to Christ through the work of that church. With a sizeable budget, a big worship band, and 2 full time pastors, I felt that there was a lot of wasted time and money going on. Yes, some big, contemporary churches are sharing and doing the gospel, and so are some small house churches like ours.

  • Don Bryant

    I relate.

  • Guest

    “all the rest that happens seems to be centered around largely performance based music”–Actually, not only is that how you experience it, but

  • Guest

    “all the rest that happens seems to be centered around largely performance based music”–Actually, not only is that how you experience it, but that’s been a problem with church music since the early 17th century, that is, about the time that tonality was beginning to supplant church modes as the dominant approach to musical harmony. (I’d suggest that a better term than “performance based” is “listener-oriented,” because the notion of music that’s not performance-based is a really complicated one.)

    In the middle ages, the “listener” to church music was

  • a musicologist

    “all the rest that happens seems to be centered around largely performance based music”–Actually, not only is that how you experience it, but that’s been a problem with church music since about the early 17th century. (I’d suggest that a better term than “performance based” is “listener-oriented,” because the notion of music that’s not performance-based is a really complicated one.)

    For my part, any time I go into a church service with music, I’m immediately aware of the cultural work that is performed by whichever genre or style happens to be played. In fact, in the modern West, the music that is present in any church makes a statement (or statements) about identities that extend beyond church walls. These may be affirmations of certain haute-bourgeois tropes about art music; they may attempt to convey certain notions of authenticity; or they may reflect a casual, unquestioned acceptance of the products of the culture industry. In fact, they frequently do all three.

    The bottom line is that, on the modern West, the notion of church music has become enormously problematic.

    • DMH

      What would you suggest we do?

      • a musicologist

        Do without music.

        • DMH

          Does not everything we do, say, create, buy… etc make some kind of statement about identity?

  • Brian P.

    Yep. Rite I is a whole lot better than people making up and/or exposing their inner theologies on the fly. Perhaps why I’d prefer a Rite I over any happy-clappy ex tempore Evangelical service is this: # of face palms.

  • Rick

    I like Pete’s thoughts on this, and let’s keep in mind his concluding remark: “All of which is to say there are multiple ways of doing church, and God can be found in any of them.”
    This Rite sounds appealing, but let’s also not bash other styles.

  • http://www.davidlgray.info/ David L. Gray

    All this time I thought you were a Catholic. LOL


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