I moved to a new town recently, which has reignited my quest to find a church. Aside from reminding me why I gave up in the first place, the churches I’ve been to recently have reminded me of one important thing that I detest about going to church:
The goddamn singing.
Everybody sings in church, for some reason. For a lot of people, my girlfriend included, “sing” and “worship” are literally synonymous (she says things like, “my favorite part of synagogue is the worship,” which confuses the hell out of me, because isn’t it all worship?)
In my discussions with religious friends about this issue, I’ve learned something even more horrifying: everyone actually pretends to like the singing. They must be pretending, right? Singing in church sucks.
Here are the top 5 reasons why singing in church sucks, along with alternative means of “worship” that churches should do instead.
5.) It’s Too Damn Early
First of all, whoever decided that church needs to be held on Sunday mornings should be sentenced to several years’ hard labor. On my last day off before being sucked back into the workweek, the last thing I want to do is get up before I’m ready, get dressed, wake my daughter up, get her dressed, feed us both, and then pile into the car to go to church. And then when I get to church, the absolute last thing I want to do is sing.
Maybe you’re gifted with an amazing voice and you can hop out of bed ready to sing a sonata, but for the rest of us (and I actually am a singer) sound terrible in the morning. If you’re a night person, like me, you’re also tired and cranky and not in the mood to lift your voice to the heavens when all you can think about is being back in bed.What Churches Can Do Instead
Instead of having everyone sing, why not have everyone just sit and listen to some music? Preferably something relatively quiet, ambient, and relaxing. Or, spice up your readings a little bit: instead of a brief passage, or recitation of some creed, why not read something a bit more substantive?
But if You Really Must Sing
Do it at the end of the service, when people are more awake. Try to pick songs that aren’t so cheery and saccharine they make people want to puke.
4.) Most People Are Bad at Singing
Let’s all just be honest about one thing: most people can’t sing. You might sound good to yourself driving down the expressway belting out Don’t Stop Believing for the millionth time, but unfortunately somewhere between a slight and an overwhelming majority of people couldn’t carry a tune if it was strapped to their back.
To compound the issues with this, in most churches, everyone is given these hymnals with the music written out as if people actually know how to read music. I play four instruments and I can barely read music, much less sing a brand new song (or a song I’ve only heard a couple of times and would never listen to in my spare time) in-key, on-note, just based on the sheet music.
Anyone with an ear for music knows that most congregations just don’t sound good together, no matter how great your pianist or organist is.
What Churches Can Do Instead
Leave it to just the choir. Seriously. The congregation doesn’t need to sing. Listening to music can be spiritual too.
But if You Really Must Sing
At least keep it to songs people know. There are a lot of explicitly religious pop songs that a good number of people in your congregation might know, and these can be good options. Or, pick some hymnals and actually work on them together as a congregation over the course of several weeks. It might actually make people feel included and like everyone is doing something together, and after some time it’ll start to actually sound good.
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