Friday, April 24, 2009

Contemporary Worship

I found the following hilarious satirical take on contemporary worship on the website The Wittenburg Door (via Fr. Ernesto Obregon's excellent blog OrthoCuban). It was written by a fellow named Dale Peterson. Enjoy, and don't take it TOO seriously.

Thank you for choosing to worship with us today. If you are from a church that uses traditional hymns, you may be confused. Please take a moment to read through this guide to contemporary Christian music.

In our church you will not hear "How Great Thou Art," "Wonderful Grace of Jesus," or "Like a River Glorious." (Generally, hymns that have words like “Thou” are not used. They are too archaic and are normally replaced by words like “awesome” and “miry clay”). Yes, okay, we may do "Amazing Grace" or "Peace Like a River" at some point, but as a general rule we avoid songs with too many different verses or those that can't be played easily on guitar and drums.

If you are new to worship here, you may wish to know the reasons for this. One is that deep theological concepts do not belong in contemporary Christian worship. We frown on songs that change more than one or two words for each verse. For example, our version of "Holy is the Lord" consists of repeating that phrase six times per verse and then changing "Holy" to "Worthy," "Mighty," "Jesus" and finally changing "the" to "my." Isn’t that much simpler to sing and easier to remember? The twin goals here are a) repetition and b) chanting quality. We don’t focus on what we’re singing, but how we’re singing it. The main thing is to get that kind of tingly, "olive oily" feeling. Don't worry if you don't get this right away. It will come as you learn to disengage your intellect. Just free yourself. Immerse yourself. Relax.

Nevertheless, a traditional hymn may sometimes be used. For example, we’re not averse to "Holy, Holy, Holy." You may be tempted to sing this as you would have in your former church, but please note that it is sung here with changes, mainly the fact that we repeat it several times and try to sing as slowly as possible, thereby emphasizing the funereal nature of the verse.

Repetition is very important in contemporary Christian music. We repeat: Repetition is very important in contemporary Christian music. Just because a song may have one verse and one chorus does not mean that you only sing it through once. Old hymns have several verses, each of which introduces a new theological concept, and are meant to be sung once followed by "Amen." This is no longer how it’s done. The correct procedure is to sing the identical verse and chorus at least three times. Often it is preferable to repeat the verse two times initially before moving on to the chorus.

Also the worship leader may want to repeat a verse or chorus found in the middle of the song. This is signaled by “calling an audible." When this occurs, the worship leader will say the first few words of the verse or chorus he will be singing next. Sometimes, due to the similarity of the verses, this may be confusing and the overhead projector may flash several pages of text until the correct one is arrived at. Don't panic, this is normal. Just continue singing as though you know the words and soon either the correct slide will appear or a new chorus will begin.

After the verse and chorus are sung at least three times, it is permissible for the song to end. However, the chorus must first be repeated in its entirety, then the last paragraph, then the last line. When singing the last line it is important to slow down a little and look upward. Raising a hand is permissible and often done at this time. This may take a little getting used to but don't worry, if you just join in, in a short time you won't even notice and soon you will forget that you ever did it any other way.

We are just really glad you chose to share the worship experience with us today.

Thank you and we hope to see you again soon.

Thank you and we hope to see you again soon. Thank you. Thank.

[Fr. James' note: What is scary is that 15 years ago, I agreed with all this. Thank God, I didn't for long....]


s-p said...

Its nice to see the Wittenburg Door is still at it and still deadly accurate.

d.burns said...


Clint said...

heh,... I remember those days.

For some reason, I don't miss them a bit.

Fr. James Early said...

That's a really good thing, Clint! :-)

Anonymous said...

Does this remind anyone of George Orwell's novel 1984, or is it just me? The invention of "Newspeak" ring a bell? "...the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year."

charlene said...

I am rolling on the floor over this one! I was raised Roman Catholic, and sang in the church choir for four years in high school, before becoming a music major in college. Gregorian chant, masses written by some of the world's finest composers... And then I attended a "folk mass"! Touchy-feely? Yes. Fun? Yes. Hootnanny? Yes. But WORSHIP? I think not. All that wonderful tradition of music that fed the soul, the traditions and beauty of the mass, the feeling of being in the presence of God, all given up to be "contemporary". While this was only done at one of the many services most Catholic churches had, it was enough to stand at least my hair on end.

Isabel said...

yes, BTDT, but I did have some strange thoughts...we use a lot of repetition in our liturgy, and that is a good thing. a good thing. ;-)

::Sylvia:: said...

Wow! Does that really happen? Man, I'm sheltered! ;)

Fr. James Early said...

Sadly, Sylvia, it does. If this article is exaggerating at all, it is only barely doing so.