Monday, August 11, 2008

My credo as a cantor

I was talking with a friend about how complicated it can be to work out worship issues when we focus on the surface concerns of style and politics...when we lose sight of what worship is for, and to whom it is offered.

It reminded me of this, which I wrote when I was in seminary. This is the belief and the ethic that underlays my decisions and efforts in building and guiding worship ministries, as a leader of the people's song (as the name "cantor" implies). If it raises questions that are useful to you in your context, please feel free to share it. If it raises questions for you personally and you'd like to discuss them, please feel free to comment!

I believe that music is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It’s rather paradoxical; when we offer music back to God, we gain in the process:

• through prayer, which grants us
∼ communication and connectedness with God
∼ spiritual growth
• through offering praise, which
∼ honors and celebrates the One who made us, and loves us completely
∼ encourages a sense of perspective; a reminder of who we are and who God is
• through proclaiming God’s word, which offers
∼ wisdom and insight to the seeker
∼ comfort to the afflicted
∼ challenge to the comfortable
• through the telling and re-telling of the Christian story, encouraging
∼ a sense of history and heritage, of who we are...both individually and as a people
∼ involvement and education of people of all ages in the celebration of their faith
∼ the spiritual growth of congregants
• through music as a communal experience:
∼ as common prayer
∼ as a builder of community (sometimes immediately, as in a shared celebration, conflict or grief...sometimes as water shapes rock: a tiny bit at a time)
∼ as a unifier of people, in time and space, and in their hearts and minds
∼ as it challenges us to live and work together as children of God:
∗ to keep growing, as Christians of all ages and as musicians, that we might offer our “first fruits” to God
∗ to be humble, honest, loving and respectful with one another
∗ to offer, receive and celebrate one another’s gifts graciously
• through the holistic aspects of music, which
∼ can reveal many levels of truth at once
∼ plants theology deeply in our hearts and minds
∼ expresses/depicts in a way that words sometimes can’t:
∗ when we see that the Good News is so good, we must sing
∗ when we’re so tired/sick/despairing, we can’t even formulate a verbal prayer
∗ when the innocence and trust of our own relationships with God are expressed through the voices of a children’s choir
∗ when the majesty of God is portrayed in a grand, crashing organ prelude
∗ when the God’s gentle, accessible parenthood is found in a beloved hymn, sung with loved ones
∼ practically speaking, is a memory aid; it can help people to recall the Word, the prayer...anything that was meaningful to them in worship, when they need it later on

∼ is a simultaneously physical, mental, spiritual, social and emotional activity

I believe that my role, as a church musician, is to be a good steward of this gift: to continue to grow in my craft and to help others to do likewise, and to make the best possible use of available resources. The practical aspects of this stewardship are numerous, but they should all point to the same thing:
helping the people of God to sing together to God.


Mrs. M said...

I really, really like this. (And yet again, you've written something that I can't absorb in one chunk, so I'm making a note to come back again later.)

Nice timing, too-- I've been thinking about worship lately, and about how it's something we offer, not just something we go to claim.

Julie said...

Thanks for that list I don't think alot of people realize the function music plays in the Church. Music opens people up to the things of God.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

Music always has been my most effective way of worship. I've spent my life singing to God, I can't imagine life without it.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

Music always has been my most effective way of worship. I've spent my life singing to God, I can't imagine life without it.

Diane said...

I love this, and you have an award at my place.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This is admirably thorough. I wish more people really had such a clear sense of purpose.