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Monday
Aug102015

One Subversive Worship Songwriter You May Not Know

Re-gifting Worship

I once heard David Gungor (of The Brilliance...fabulous) talk about his charismatic past meeting his liturgical present as coalescing around a "ninja liturgy"--a stealth liturgical narrative quietly creeping into and taking over the modern worship song set. I've been thinking more about this kind of subversion (especially as I've been writing The Worship Pastor), maybe arriving at the conclusion that it's less subversion and more just great contextualization... re-gifting in the best possible light.

When it comes to worship songwriting, I'm grateful for our generation's hymn-writers (I really believe something exciting is going on) who seem to be exhibiting a daring and risky backbone as they venture into some uncharted (or not recently charted) waters. I'm thinking of the Gungors, John Mark McMillan, David Crowder, Audrey Assad, etc., who are pressing beyond the (not all bad) standard fare of conventional modern worship songwriting.

Reimagining Latin Hymns

One songwriter, though, that may be flying more under our radar is John Mason Neale. We may not recognize his name, not because he hasn't done great work for the church, but because we're one year shy of his death-date 150 years ago (August 6, 1866). Neale was a 19th century hymn writer probably most famous for "O Come O Come, Emmanuel." He was controversial and subversive as a songwriter because he was trying to re-give to the Church some old, forgotten, historic songs of her past. He dug up old Latin hymns and translated them into English. In fact in 1851, he published a collection of Medieval hymns, including "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (can you imagine Advent/Christmas without THAT?!?), whose Latin original is from the 12th century.

During Neale's day, the Church of England was going through its "Anglo-Catholic" awakening. Many don't realize this, but the fact that large swaths of the Anglican/Episcopal church "feel Catholic" is largely due to what happened in the 19th century in England in Neale's day. The Anglican tradition didn't always mirror Rome in its worship appearances/practices (at least it certainly did not begin that way under Thomas Cranmer). The 1800s saw a groundswell of folks desirous to get back to more "ancient" roots. There was a rediscovery of early church figures and writers and an unearthing of forgotten Medieval liturgies. And, for folks like Neale, there was a dusting off of forgotten hymnals as a handful of subversive songwriters dug up the Church's old songs.

I really think I know what Neale felt like. In college, I remember being exposed for the first time to the Church's rich hymn tradition. I was taken aback by how different these worship songs sounded from what I was used to. I started collecting old hymnals and pouring over what were for me "forgotten texts." It was exhillarating. And it wasn't before long that a compulsion developed in me to want to re-give these forgotten songs to the Church. (Hence, my albums...especially the first two.) 

Songwriters: Keep the Dialogue Alive

Whatever we might say about the merits or demerits of the Anglo-Catholic movement, I think it was a great win for the Church that this time period saw a renaissance of regifting old hymns for new generations. Neale took all his training in Latin and, like a good missionary, translated and contextualized some long-forgotten hymns for his day and age.

Every generation of worship songwriting needs similar subversion--a bucking of trends, a shaking up of the status quo. My hope is that as songwriting becomes more central to the M.O. of the modern worship leader (a shift I'm grateful for), we will always stir the pot, mixing old with new. My dream is that worship songwriters will be in dialogue with old songs. Even if their call is not to re-gift old hymns to new generations, there is still something incredibly healthy about having hymns as conversation partners. They, like all thoughtful historical inquiry, expose blind spots and stir our creative and theological imaginations.

(If this is new to you, a great place to start would be to get your hands on a good [FREE] hymn collection like Gadsby's Hymns, the hymns of Isaac Watts, or the hymns of Joseph Hart. I go back to these collections again and again, astounded at their wisdom and beauty.)

Friday
May012015

The National Worship Leader Conference in May

For all of you easterners, in less than a month, I'll be contributing a small part to the National Worship Leader Conference (May 18-21) in Virginia, just outside of DC. I'm probably more excited than ever about the lineup of folks. For instance, Tuesday morning, there will be a really nice interplay between David Crowder and Bill & Gloria Gaither. And later on I'll be interviewing the Gaithers on their years of wisdom about the worship landscape and songwriting. When I did this interview last year in Kansas, I was downright shocked at how thoughtful and incisive their observations were.

Dr. Reggie Kidd of Reformed Seminary will be there on Wednesday morning. If you all haven't picked up his book, With One Voice, you need to. It's drenched with Jesus-centered reflections you don't normally here in worship conversations.

Then...THEN...I'm probably most excited about the lineup on Wednesday night. Two of my favorite worship artists right now--Daniel Bashta and The Brilliance--will be leading us in singing. I honestly can't wait. Dan's newest album, For Every Curse, is dynamite. And I've already told you about The Brilliance's Brother.

In addition to all this, I'll be helping out with a Songwriting workshop as we listen to people's submissions and discuss them, hopefully to lead us all to better practices in writing songs for our local church.

Go straight here if you'd like to jump into registration. But certainly check out the site for the full lineup and more information on the conference. If you do come, make sure to hit me up. Contact me. I'd love to hang and talk shop. :)

Wednesday
May212014

My Time at the Pop Rock Worship Consultation at Calvin (with pictures)

Many have asked for me to share my experiences at Calvin College this week. I was graciously invited by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) to join a well-rounded group of songwriters, artists, music industry leaders, educational leaders, scholars, and worship leaders. Please read one of the organizer's (David Taylor) wonderful reflections and comments here.

Who Was There?

Matt, Charlie (Graham & Latifah in the background)(some of these lines are blurry, but I'll do my best to categorize)

Songwriters/Artists: David Crowder (Passion), Miranda Dodson (City Life Church), David Gungor (Gungor / The Brilliance), Charlie Hall (Passion), Graham Kendrick, Latifah Phillips (Page CXVI, The Autumn Film), Robbie Seay, Tommy Walker

Worship Leaders: David M. Bailey & Erin Rose (Making a Melody), Matt Boswell (Providence/Doxology & Theology), Troy Hatfield (Mars Hill, MI), Greg Scheer (Church of the Servant/Calvin)

Scholars: Jeremy Begbie (Duke), Monique Ingalls (Cambridge, Baylor), Todd Johnson (Fuller), Wen Reagan (Duke), Lester Ruth (Duke), W. David O. Taylor (Fuller), John Witvliet (Calvin)

Industry Leaders: John Chisum (formerly of Integrity), Andy Piercy

Educational Leaders / Publishers: Joyce Borger (Calvin), David Fuentes (Calvin), Steve Guthrie (Belmont), Robin Parry (Wipf & Stock), Ed Willmington (Fuller) 

Why Were We There? 

Robbie, Me, Wen, Miranda, Lester, AndyWe came to have an open and honest dialogue about “pop/rock worship” (an inherently slippery title, but the best that probably could be found). The desire among the organizers at CICW was to create a space for fruitful, intentional, even directional conversation that took the topic seriously in a non-dismissive way. The goals were to process this heavily influential medium in the Western Church’s worship (and now worldwide) in a way that affirmed its merits and sought to encourage the Church’s growth and health in light of it.

What Was the Vibe?

Based on the above roster of sensibilities and vantage points, you might expect it to have been awkward or even cantankerous. It wasn’t. It was actually quite the opposite. I can describe the sprit of the room as electric, affirming, encouraging, self-aware, intelligent, irenic, and overall inspiring. There was an overall sense of a collective rallying around a love for Christ and His Bride. There was mutual respect and admiration for each other’s areas of expertise and spheres of influence.  There was also a nice amount of cutting up and laughing. There were some great moments of just plain fun. I give major kudos to CICW, John Witvliet, David Taylor, and the rest of the organizing crew for setting the tone and doing the hard work of finding the “right” people to have a catalyzing discussion like this.

What Did the Time Look Like?

David T., David G., Erin, Todd, John W.We sat down for four sessions of well-organized, guided discussion: Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, Tuesday afternoon/evening, and Wednesday morning. Each session was book-ended by devotional reflections through the book of Philippians (we ended up hearing all of Philippians read to us over the three days), along with reflections on paintings shown in this wonderful book. We sat at regularly mixed-up round tables all in one room, and the organizers were intentional that at each table-gathering you had a nice cross-section of the above disciplines/persuasions/vocations represented. We would often have large group discussions with everyone, combined with moments of table, think-tank, seedbed discussions.  On Tuesday evening we took a field trip and spent a night on the town.

What Did We Recognize Was Missing? 

Lester Ruth & stats on songsNot for want of trying (some who would have filled this out couldn’t come), we all acknowledged that we needed more races represented and that our gender was male-heavy. We could have used more representation from the mainstream Christian music industry, as well.  It was hard, also, in this environment, to “hear” the voice of the small church, because most of us were not serving in or associated with smaller (and rural) churches.  With regards to the first point, it was acknowledged that a gaping hole in discussions of “pop rock worship” is the African American gospel tradition, which was one of the main streams to have birthed rock music and which continued to influence and effect change in rock through the decades.

What Did We Discuss?

On Monday night, we traced important figures, institutions, and “moments” in the history of “pop rock worship” (but really, it was a kind of highlighted history of contemporary worship).  The discussion was fascinating, especially since we had some of the very figures and institutions represented in the room, at that moment. Here was our snapshot:

On Tuesday, both Lester Ruth and Jeremy Begbie stirred the pot and primed the pump by discussing the content of the top CCLI songs (Ruth), and how the gospel’s “disturbs” our complacency about music and content (Begbie). The ensuing discussions provoked these kinds of questions:

  • David B., David C. Graham, Andy, David T.What does faithful discipleship look like in worship planning in our environments…for songwriters, worship leaders, industry leaders, resource providers, and educational institutions?
  • How does music communicate apart from text? What does it “say” in certain genre media?
  • How can we utilize the strengths of various streams even within the pop rock genre(s) to expand the horizons of Christian worship?
  • Where are the content-gaps in pop-rock worship, and how can those gaps be creatively filled by songwriters, worship leaders, industry leaders, resource providers, and educational institutions?
  • How can we affirm and what is good about the history of pop rock worship? What aspects of the “industry” are praiseworthy?
  • How can we look at the “industry” less as a de-personalized mechanism and more as filled with many people who love Christ and desire to serve His Church?
  • What common practices can we commend among ourselves in response to the answers borne out of the above questions? 

These questions are juicy, aren’t they? The discussions were deep, and my admiration for every single person in that room went up.

What’s Next?

We didn’t just meet to throw out ideas. We met to catalyze some new thinking, new directions, and new actions. We were all tasked with developing certain goals for our practice as our feet hit the ground in our local contexts. Here are some of my thoughts for my local ministry and broader influence: (1) Continue praying and strategizing about how to stretch the diversity of our expression of music in worship at Coral Ridge for the sake of the diversity of our community; (2) Continue to write songs of confession and maybe begin to interject lament language more intentionally into our worship times; (3) Move ahead with releasing our EP of Trinitarian songs, The Magnificent Three, in the late Fall; (4) Do more collaborative songwriting.

Monday
Apr232012

More Communion, More Roots: David Crowder's Final Album and the Trajectory of Modern Worship

Worship Leader Magazine recently published an interview of David Crowder shortly after the release of their final album, Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]).  (Even the title carries with it our modern generation's characteristic mixture of reverence and irreverence, being a requiem with a not-so-subtle reference to Spinal Tap...I know that's not everyone's cup of tea, but it sure is mine.)

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Mar122011

Review of Here For You, by Passion

Passion, Here For You (sixsteps/Sparrow)
Released: March 8, 2011

I remember when I heard my first Passion record—Passion 98—in high school.  It was fresh and different.  Little did I know at the time that I was listening to a mile-marker in the short history of contemporary worship.  Passion and Delirious are the pivot-point on which “contemporary worship” swung to “modern worship.”  Thirteen years later, much has changed, and much has stayed the same.  Many of the same faces and voices that were emerging in 1998 (Tomlin, Crowder, Hall, Redman) are now household names in contemporary Christian music.  Those twenty-somethings who were more raw emotion and energy have matured into thirty-somethings who have added a bit more depth to their passion.  Here For You clearly shows that Passion still dominates the modern worship scene.

SUMMARY

Passion always produces great albums.  To my ear and heart, this is not a hallmark album, however.  Musically, it is a typical modern worship album (this is not a criticism).  Textually, there are a few small surprises, but nothing jumps out that has not been previously recorded.  Awakening (2010) had a few outstanding songs (e.g. “You Alone Can Rescue”).  This album doesn’t seem to carry the same kind of stardom.  The songs I would most likely incorporate into worship are: “All to Us” (see my review of Tomlin’s album for comments on this song) and “Spirit Fall.”

Repeats from other albums and projects include: Crowder Band’s “Shadows,” from their Church Music, Stanfill’s “Forever Reign” from Hillsong’s A Beautiful Exchange, and “All to Us,” from Tomlin’s And if Our God is For Us.

MUSICALITY

The production, as always, is great.  The album is filled, with few exceptions, with the typical instrumentation: flowy keys, electric guitars, light acoustics, big drums, and crowd noise.  “All My Fountains” is a nice sonic departure from the standard tones and sounds of modern worship.  It is more earthy and vigorously acoustic rhythm reminiscent of late 90s Dave Matthews.  Christy Nockels (“Carry Your Name”) really does have a golden voice…the finest in Passion’s arsenal.

Perhaps the most novel aspect of Here For You is the introduction of rap into Passion’s recordings.  Lecrae appears on “Shadows,” with David Crowder, and on the bonus track of “Our God,” with Chris Tomlin.  With others, I’m appreciative of the incorporation of other genres, and especially from brothers and sisters who have an equal claim to the history of American church music—the African American tradition.  Some may disagree, but I believe rap is very much rooted in a combination of blues and the sing-song/shouting style of traditional black gospel preaching.  However, as many have noted, rap is a hard medium for congregational music.  It is effective as a preaching medium, and in a responsorial format (e.g. a verse plus a congregational refrain), but it is certainly something for congregations to listen to, not participate in.  Still, it’s a welcome addition to Passion’s albums specifically and worship generally.  Perhaps it is another small sign that racial bridges can be and are being broken down in and around worship.  Praise God for that!

THEOLOGICAL CONTENT

With this album, we see yet more cross-pollination between Hillsong worship and Passion worship.  “Set Free” is co-written by Redman, Tomlin, Ingram, and Ben Fielding.  Stanfill leads Hillsong’s “Forever Reign.”  There is also a little nod toward the hymn tradition on this record.  The chorus of “Lord, I Need You” very briefly touches on the text and melodic line of the 1872 hymn by Annie Hawks, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”  I’m also excited to see the maturation of the songwriters with texts which “sound” like the expression of the biblical Psalms.  Kristian Stanfill’s “Always” is a weaving of several psalms (like 121 and 130) which give voice to lament in worship.

Some songs on the album, such as “Lord, I Need You,” “Carry Your Name,” and “Constant,” are deeply gospel-centered and Christ-saturated.  The text of  “Lord, I Need You” is doubly praiseworthy because it highlights Christ’s righteousness, not our own triumph, the latter being a nagging theme sometimes found in modern worship:

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Likewise, I appreciate the opening line of Crowder’s “Sometimes”:

Sometimes every one of us feels
Like we’ll never be healed
Sometimes

Modern worship needs to rest in these moments of lamentation more often, like the Psalms do.  The song carries quite a progression that one often doesn’t see in one hymn:

It begins in individual lamentation:

Sometimes every one of us aches
Like we’ll never be saved
Sometimes

It progresses to hope:

When we’ve given up
Let Your healing come
When there’s nothing left
Let Your healing come
Til we’re rising up
Let Your healing come

It moves to adoration:

It’s Your love that we adore
It’s like a sea without a shore
We’re lost in You
We’re lost in You

It moves to consecration and mission:

Where You go, we will follow
Oh, God send me

“All My Fountains” is an interesting expansion on that phrase taken from an under-appreciated psalm (Psalm 87), an eschatological song about the children of Zion and the joy of being in the protection and presence of God.  Knowing the psalm gives great context for the joy of “All My Fountains”:

He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are said of you, city of God...
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
 and the Most High himself will establish her.”

The LORD will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”

As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”   (Psalm 87 [NIV])

The first three songs are calls to worship, songs of exaltation.  “Symphony” lifts the eyes similar to the opening lines of “How Great is Our God,” with its Psalm 19-like first verse:

Shining wonders, fields of splendor
How they sing Your symphony
The deepest oceans, rising mountains
How they sing Your symphony

There is a strong emphasis throughout the album (which is typical of modern worship) of finding God’s special manifestation in the moment of musical worship.  “Waiting Here for You” sings,

And we’re desperate for Your presence
All we need is You

“All My Fountains” cries,

Come on, rain down on us,
Rain down on us, Lord

It has always been a part of the modern worship ethos to seek God’s special manifestation in the moment of singing.  Many worship songs ask for that very thing, saying something like, “as we sing, come meet us here.”  I wonder, with such a heavy emphasis on the presence of God in music, whether modern worship has steered us away from seeing how the presence of God is also (and perhaps better) manifested in other elements of worship like the Lord’s Table.  A gentle reminder to those of us who love and appreciate the vitality of modern worship is that the Scriptures testify and the history of the Church’s worship corroborates the reality that God chooses to manifest Himself most acutely in the Lord’s Supper, not in singing.  But, unfortunately, modern worship movements like Passion have been at least a small step removed from corporate worship of the local church, acting more like parachurch worship movements than core expressions of Christ’s church (interesting sidenote: Passion City Church has launched as a Passion-offshoot in Atlanta). While I’m all for encouraging generations to gather, be inspired, and rise up for ministry (Passion is a movement targeting the specific demographic of college and young adults), I wonder whether Passion’s influence on the Church has at least in a small way led evangelicalism more toward missing what uniquely happens in worship when we celebrate the sacrament together.

It is encouraging to see the theological jab in “Spirit Fall.”  Often times, simple songs of the Spirit are nebulous and do not highlight the roles that the Spirit plays.  Here, we have a very specific call for the Holy Spirit to act:

Oh, come
Magnify the Son
Savior of the world
The hope for everyone

The Spirit’s job isn’t just to give us goosebumps and overlay an emotional blanket on our hearts during worship.  The Spirit has come to bear witness to the Son, to herald the gospel, and to illumine Christ to us.  To my mind, this is what gives this simple song some uniqueness in the modern worship expression.  Personally, I am not usually drawn to more experiential songs, but this one attracts me because of its theological angle.

“Set Free” is an exciting song intended to get bodies moving:

And we’ll dance, dance
Dance in Your freedom
Oh, Your glorious freedom
Forevermore, forevermore

Perhaps because it’s more of a “dance” number than a “sing” number, the text-writing is a bit more loose.  I often encourage worship leaders to hold up as a criterion for song-selection the idea of logical cohesion (see my article “How I Choose Songs for Corporate Worship”).  Where is the point at which words and phrases move from being “impressionistic” to random?  I wonder whether “Set Free” teeters on this tipping point:

Joy, joy, unspeakable joy
Hope like never before
You came for us
You are our freedom

Love, love, unshakeable love
We shall over come, we will never give up
We lift a shout, we lift a shout
Everyone singing

Come on, come on now, we’ve got a new song
Come on, come on now, a song of liberty
Let the world hear heaven’s melody
This is the shout of the hearts You’ve set free

There is a conceptual glue which holds these statements together, certainly, but the text is awfully loose.  I’m not totally against it, but I want to continually raise the question that many do not: Should we not pause to ponder the fact that, while standing in the rich history of hundreds of years of Christian worship, we are the first to express words in this way, so loosely hung together?

I’m also interested in discussing the phrase, “dance in your freedom.”  For as popular a phrase as this is in modern worship, there aren’t many Scriptural parallels to it.  In the Bible, certainly there is dancing.  And a major theme of the gospel certainly is freedom.  And yet if you do a Bible Gateway search of the words and phrases, “dance freedom,” “dancing freedom,” and “dance free,” at least in the NIV, no matches are found.  Where did this phrase and idea get so popular for modern worship?  Does it have its roots in David’s naked, “undignified” worship?  Is it an attempt to encourage that attitude of heart?  It is not at all bad to strive for bodily freedom in worship; God deserves our all.  Dancing is an expression of worship, of course.  But where did we come up with this phrase, and what is its meaning and purpose?  I simply want to question its prevalence in our modern hymnody. 

Because of Passion's incredible influence over evangelical worship (in many ways, they are trend-setters) they must be open to scrutiny and questions like those above.  Still, Here For You contains nothing off-course theologically, and will no doubt leave a positive mark on the landscape of modern worship.

Tuesday
Oct122010

Great Critique of the Crowder Worship Conference

In his Christianity Today article, arts pastor W. David O. Taylor shares his insights from his time as a presenter and participator in Crowder's Fantastical Church Music Conference.  (I keep posting about this conference because I believe it's a significant marker in modern church music history.)

Here's some dialogue with a few quotes from the article:

You know you are at a worship conference sponsored by David Crowder when a fog machine kicks in and gobo lights wash the stage in color while the Welcome Wagon sings an exquisitely spare version of "Hail to the Lord's Anointed." It makes you wonder what the Moravian James Montgomery (1771-1854), author of the hymn, would have thought.

Love it.  Gobos + Montgomery = my cup of ancient-modern tea.  (How's that for consumeristic?)

The bounty of "I live for you" and "I'm gonna give my praise to you" songs kept reminding me that me, myself and I were engaged in something terribly important right then. After a while, as my grandma might say, I plum wore out. I got tired of me. But for those of us who allergically react to the wealth of I-songs, we need to remember that the Psalter includes a surplus of first-person singular prayers.

Amen.  But Taylor also provides a good counterpoint to keep the I-pendulum from swinging too far:

The British theologian David Ford explains the Psalter's dynamic well. He observes, "The Psalmist's 'I' accommodates a vast congregation of individuals and groups down the centuries around the world today.

The "I" in worship must still (and, biblically, was always intended to) be a corporate "I."  That's worth chewing on.

In an e-mail prior to the conference, Crowder shared with me a concern about rock music. He asked, "Is the pop-rock song 'disposable', as many suggest, and if so, what does that mean about basing our congregational singing on such a thing?" One might ask the same thing about the pop-rock musician. Does the stage-centric, unidirectional, heroic-leader, "passive"-audience, shout-fest, heart-on-the-sleeves culture of pop-rock music militate against healthy worship practices? Maybe. But not necessarily.

I agree.  Too many critics of modern worship believe these things are necessary evils rather than potential evils.  Heart, heart, heart.  It's encouraging to me that Crowder is thinking deeply enough about the nature of pop music to ask the question he asks.  Kenneth Myers would be proud...though still unappreciative of Crowder's art. ;)

If you throw a David Crowder into the Louie Giglio mix, you get the latest iteration of evangelical history: Wesley and Wesley, Moody and Sankey, Graham and Barrows, Giglio and Crowder. You get a classic pattern of preacher and musician, working together to bring the church to a renewed encounter with the living God.

Brilliant observation.  And this, folks, is why knowing history is so valuable.  There is nothing new under the sun, and perhaps the "old" ways aren't as outdated and irrelevant as we thought, huh?  This may be a stretch, though, given that almost nothing Crowder has produced post-Illuminate is congregational material. It's not a criticism of what Crowder has done.  It's just an observation.  Sankey and Barrows may have been performers in their own right, but they are known for their contribution to hymnody, not solo material.  Crowder's on the path of being remembered as a contributor to the latter, not the former.  (For what it's worth, the Giglio-Tomlin pairing more closely parallels the historical recapitulation, but Tomlin wasn't at this conference.)

The temptation at a conference like this is to be cynical and judgmental. Cynicism says these people are phony. Judgmentalism says these people are doing it wrongly. But I beg to differ. I found a lot of songwriters who humbly seek to provide the church with good worship music.

Would that more modern worship critics arrive here.  So much of what fuels the church disunity on these issues is the absence of a generosity of spirit.

Friday
Oct082010

Bifrost Arts from a Mainstream Worship Perspective

Check out how one blogger described their experience of joining with Bifrost Arts in worship at the David Crowder Fantastical Church Music Conference.  It's reveals how far people like us have to go in the quest to bridge the worlds of historicity and liturgy with mainstream evangelical worship:

Bitfrost Arts, a hymn-sing group from…well, I can’t remember if it was from Virginia or Missouri, but regardless, their sound was at the same time familiar and mysterious.  Instead of relying on the large square projection screens to prompt singing, Bitfrost Arts had printed out hymn-sing sheets, which really served more as an order of worship, complete with responsive readings and liturgical leadings.

I say that the sound was familiar in that most of what we sang were (somewhat) familiar hymns of the historical church.  The 2500 attendees were accompanied by a 15-person choir (comprised of randomly selected Baylor students on the quad), a drummer, guitar and bassist, as well as a full-sized harp.

I say the sound was mysterious in that the act of singing the old hymns with 2500 voices created a passionate sound which echoed off the walls with the same effect as if we had been standing in St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Archaic yet relevant, to sing these songs was to take a fully engaged step back into the historical church.  And the harp just added the appropriate eerie/surreal layer to blanket it all.

Words or phrases that intrigue me are:

  • how they spell "Bifrost" :)
  • "a hymn-sing group" (?)
  • "archaic yet relevant" (I know what they mean...not sure "archaic" is the right word, though)
  • "a fully engaged step back into the historical church" (true...there are many instances of disengaged steps back into the historical church)
Friday
Oct082010

Kauflin Shares Insights on Crowder's Church Music Conference

Bob Kauflin, Sovereign Grace pastor and worship leader, author of Worship Matters, and blogger at worshipmatters.com, reflects on his time participating in Crowder's Fantastical Church Music Conference last weekend.  As the time was drawing near for this event, I posted about why this conference was significant, especially from the perspective of the hymns movement.

See Kauflin's whole post, but here are some of my takeaways:

  • Isaac Wardell and Bifrost Arts "led us in a low-key but engaging time of singing that was built on a more formal liturgy than most of us were probably used to. I thought they did an effective job showing how a liturgy made up of more historic elements, when well led and properly explained, can really serve to focus our eyes on the person and work of Christ."
  • According to Kauflin, it sounds like Rob Bell was a little gray on the doctrine of the atonement.  Hmm...
  • Four quotables from the "Why Do We Sing" panel discussion:
    --“Singing is a way we give ourselves away.”
    --“We sing to remember and re-member.”
    --“We are separate from the world and singing helps us remember that.”
    --“Singing involves relationship, faithfulness, and trusting in the work of Christ.