I've returned to reading Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren not only because I owe Thomas Nelson Publishing a review, but because I'm yet again in a phase of transition within my faith journey. I'm on Chapter 12 ("Communal Practices") now, and I will get back to blogging my answers to the questions at the end of each chapter, but while reading this chapter, I immediately got out of bed to write through some of these thoughts. Later this week, I will be guest blogging for Rachel Held Evans on my visit to a faith community very different than ones I've belonged to, but for now, I want to work through some points and excerpts from this chapter that quickly engaged with my mind and spirit.
Singing is so familiar in our churches that I fear we are missing what a miracle it is. First, singing involves our bodies.... Second, it involves our souls.... Third, it involves a text, sometimes (though too rarely) a beautiful poetic lyric. Fourth, it involves a score, sometimes (again, too rarely) a beautiful artistic score. Fifth, that score engages instruments.... Sixth, it often involves parts.... And finally, [singing] involves other people - many voices, one song. Think of it: bodies and souls, people and instruments, texts and notes, men and women and children, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives somehow coming together in the miracle of a song or hymn. Figuratively as literally, songs harmonize us, which is why they are such important communal spiritual practices. (pp. 105-106)
As well, songs (like acts of romantic affection) simultaneously express and intensify emotion. Sadly, the singing in some of our churches expresses a range of emotion that runs from B to C (bored to complacent), but the Bible takes us from A (angry) to F (fervent) to J (joyful) to L (lamenting) to N (nostalgic) to R (restful) to X (er, exalted) to Z (zealous). I'm glad to report that people are beginning to notice the narrow range of songs used in so many of our churches, whether they be "traditional" or "contemporary" or "blended," and even better, they're starting to write new songs that more fully explore and express the spiritual life in both content and emotion. (p. 106)