friday five: we who sing pray twice

From Mary Beth at RevGals:

Music is a part of the human experience, and part of religious traditions the world over. It is evocative and stirring, and many forms of worship are incomplete without it.

Our title comes from a quote popularly attributed to St. Augustine: “He who sings prays twice.” A little Googling, however, indicates that Augustine didn’t say exactly that. In fact, what he said just doesn’t fit well onto a t-shirt. So we’ll stick with what we have.

“Singing reduces stress and increases healthy breathing and emotional expression. Singing taps into a deep, age-old power available to all of us. When we find our voice, we find ourselves. Today, sing like you mean it.” And let’s talk about the role music plays in your life and worship.

1) Do you like to sing/listen to others sing? In worship, or on your own (or not at all?)

I do like to sing, but I don’t think I can sing, so I don’t sing so loudly in public. It sure hasn’t stopped me from singing to my kids, though.

2) Did you grow up with music in worship, or come to it later in life? Tell us about it, and how that has changed in your experience.

I grew up through the 70s and 80s with the standard Evangelical hymn, prayer, offering sandwich. With no church year or lectionary texts to follow (except Christmas–all December–and Easter–Easter Morning only), I’m not sure how hymns were chosen. I don’t think there was much coordination except maybe on a communion Sunday. Then in the 90s we had 20-25 minutes of praise songs before the sermon.

I didn’t realize how different the hymnals and emphases were in Evangelical and Mainline churches until I started going to the Presbyterian church. I am learning to really love the Presbyterian music, but I do miss the occasional rousing hymn of my childhood. I feel a little incomplete on Easter morning without “Up from the Grave He Arose.” Also, I like the idea of the music leader being out of the way–not standing in front telling us to open the hymnals, etc., but I kind of miss the strong leader-led singing. I think it elicits a stronger response from the congregation. (I also think the lector should read the congregational responses when leading readings because it helps with flow and makes for a stronger response, so I’m biased in that direction.)

3) Some people find worship incomplete without music; others would just as soon not have it. Where do you fall?

My only experience with a worship service with no music is with my in-laws who attend the early service at their Episcopal church and it is an in-and-out service: 45 minutes tops, no music at all. I don’t get it.

4) Do you prefer traditional music in worship, or contemporary? That can mean many different things!

As I have mentioned before, I am completely musically illiterate. Our church does a mix of songs from the hymnal, from the praise song book, and some other pieces. It all flows with the liturgy and lectionary selections and that brings Joy to my English major, thematic, symbolic soul.

I don’t hate praise songs and I preferred that to the “Now stand and sing verses 1,2, and 4 of such-and-such hymn” and with a good leader, they can be quite nice, but I struggle with standing the WHOLE time and singing the same thing over and over and over. Yet I like some of the Taize music and things like the Kyrie that also repeat. It feels different to me, but I’m not sure I can explain how. And whatever kind of music we have, I will always miss certain other kinds. When we did all praise choruses, I missed certain hymns. Now I miss certain praise choruses. Whatever.

5) What’s your go-to music … when you need solace or want to express joy? A video/recording will garner bonus points!

Ducking shyly she says, that would be Amy Grant. Some things are just too ingrained.

At the request of FaithHopeCherryTea, here’s a YouTube link to “Unafraid,” a song on Amy’s most recent album, an album I am really enjoying. I can’t embed video because I haven’t paid for the privilege. :-/

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7 Responses to friday five: we who sing pray twice

  1. no need for ducking shyly, Wendy –
    your spirit is expressing what’s within – EnJoY !!
    could you find a clip from youtube to post ?
    i’d love to hear what speaks/ministers life to you !…

  2. mompriest says:

    Oh, the 8am, Episcopal RIte I, no music worship (sigh). I call it “Contemplative” but it can also just be boring….

    I think you are right, having a “cantor” who leads music in worship is a great idea and really helps. I’m not terrible fond of the Roman Catholic way of doing it – cantor sings the verses and then with a motion of the hand brings the congregation into the refrain….for some reason that just makes me gag. But a cantor who sings along with all the stanzas is great!

  3. well done, Wendy ! loved the link – great addition!
    blessings to you today in every way ~

  4. Thanks for the link — being much, much older than you and not raised Evangelical, I wasn’t really familiar with Amy Grant although I knew the name. This was a great example of a “sacred song” that is not a hymn, but transmits a spiritual truth in a way people can understand. Also I think your idea about the lector reading the responses is a good one. I plan to watch for that!

  5. Mary Beth says:

    How interesting, your different experiences in different types of churches.

  6. singingowl says:

    So interesting how our lives early on shape us! Born and raised Southern Baptist I know about the stand and sing verses so and so, and now Assemly of God clergy I know the camp meeting style songs and contemporary music, good and bad. I love to attend a mainline service once in a while if the music is really good, because the variety is so effective for me…I love classical hymns and anthems too.

  7. Brittany says:

    Yay for a fellow Amy Grant fan! 🙂 Just love the whole album that this song came from!

    As I read your responses to the questions it struck me that sometimes it’s how music or songs are led that make all the difference in how we respond to them. If we are just singing for the sake of singing, that comes through, but if the words of the song are penetrating our hearts, then that comes through as well. Thanks for your words!

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