Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alternative Worship Sunday



To paraphrase Duke Ellington, “There are two kinds of music, good music and all the rest. Don’t spend any time on the latter.” Actually Duke was speaking about worries, but for my purpose today, “music” is a better fit.
There is no doubt that religion has spawned some of the world’s greatest music. Bach cantatas and masses, and Handel’s Messiah spring to mind. I have sung and heard some beautiful choir settings, and there are a few hymns, e.g. Angels We Have Heard On High and Silent Night among others, that are beautiful. For some reason Eternal Father, Strong To Save always makes me puddle up. And I always love to hear a good soloist sing O Holy Night.
But aside from 10% to 15% of church music, the rest, at least to me, is bad poetry set to mediocre music. I am a little more lenient than the Duke, so replacing his binary scale (0-1) with the decimal scale (1-10), I would rate much of it between 0 and 4.
Now a new practice, alternative worship, has become popular in many churches. It brings with it its own “alternative worship music,” an oxymoron to rival “country music” and “rap music.”
The words to AWM are usually projected onto a screen – not the music, just the words. If you don’t know what is loosely called “the tune,” and very few people do, you are out of luck. At least with a hymnal someone with a modicum of musical education can figure out the tune. But with AWM this is not as big a problem as it sounds because there is not much of a tune.
Anyway, the words keep repeating and repeating until someone, and I have yet to figure out who, decides to stop. Then it just stops! It doesn’t seem to matter where one is in the music, it ends right there! I am expanding my decimal scale to include negative numbers.
But in following Duke’s (paraphrased) advice, Barbara and I have figured out a way to handle alternative worship service: we have come up with the concept of alternative worship attendance. One Sunday a month we do not attend. It just happens to coincide with alternative worship service Sunday. Today’s the day.

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