Lyrics and Church — Part 1

May 20, 2009 at 7:33 am 3 comments

Recently, my good friend Kristie commented on this blog that she sang “From A Distance” as a solo in her church. Now, unless she corrects me, I believe she is referring to the Julie Gold song “From A Distance” sung by the divine Miss M, Bette Midler. (I love her! And I love Julie Gold!)

The Divine Miss M-Bette Midler

The Divine Miss M-Bette Midler

Feedback that came to Kristie was that some folks weren’t thrilled about the lyrics — meaning, I think, that maybe they thought the lyrics weren’t quite right for their church service – the song may not have had the substance they were looking for.

It’s happened to all of us who sing regularly in church: we sing something that is not everyone’s “cup of tea” or preference, or sense of theology. It’s a tough one.

In my experience, I have come to believe that “You can’t please everybody — EVER.” Hah! What a limiting statement to make! But for me, the unlimiting spiritual truth, the spiritual force behind that statement is “I can strive to please God — EVERY time.”

And that striving to please God, I believe, is where one’s safety lies when it comes to choosing and delivering music in church.

If you are in a position to be selecting music with words for your church services, your motive to serve God, the congregation and the specific needs of your church will guide you and keep you open to what Inspiration has to say to you about your choices.

But what if you still get folks expressing concern or criticism even after feeling like you were inspired to make that choice? It is well to acknowledge that they were listening! They were inspired to follow every word that was sung. And they thought about it! So, how wonderful that the lyrics engaged them — even if it wasn’t exactly the way you might have expected.

This doesn’t mean that you set out to provoke your congregation. I am saying that if folks are paying attention, then you must be doing your job! You are communicating the message. They are listening and responding.

I find, too, that their feedback is also my opportunity to think deeply again, look at the lyrics from their point of view, and try to understand their concern. This can lead to lively discussion and new mutual understanding, or it can simply be taken as a mental note of ways to proceed in the future.

No matter what, hopefully this process will have caused us all to climb another step up the mountain of spiritual understanding.

And that makes it all worthwhile!

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Entry filed under: Church Music, Have I Got A Song For You!, Inspirational Music, Inspirational Sheet Music, Inspiratus, Performance, Practice & Performance: Working It Out, Sheet Music. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Sparks from the Fire’s Peter Link Lyrics and Church – Part 2

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. David Ring  |  August 15, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this comment about the use of “From a Distance” as solo material. There are many threads that could be
    developed around the subject of musical choices. It is not always
    clear what sort of touchstones should be used when an art form
    is undergoing an evolutionary process which invariably will challenge traditional ways or approaches to that art form. In my
    view the Solo in our Sunday service is such an art form placed in the context of (in the service of) worship. The purpose of worship is to stimulate one to “think about God….and his creation(s).” —- in uplifting or inspiring ways.

    As someone who has had their choices, judgements, selections
    challenged from time to time in the capacity of Reader I found this statement to be very supportive: Present the truth in so far as you understand it and those ready to receive it will be grateful for it.

    Presented honestly within the context of an artistic performance truth and gratitude and honesty will prevail.
    This leaves us (in our roles as witnesses) with two key responsibilities. First, to continue to strive to understand truth and second to continue our efforts to help prepare others to be more ready to receive it, when presented.

    Reply
    • 2. juliawade  |  August 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

      David,

      Thank you so much for your deep and thoughtful comments. I completely agree that on the subject of musical choices in church, there is so very much to consider! This is true, as you well point out, especially since music in church, as an art form, is “undergoing an evolutionary process.”

      You are right, many threads can be developed around this subject. That is exactly what my goal is for Inspiratus — to create many paths of thought and ideas that will provide starting points for conversations — such as we are having here.

      I recently took a new step in this direction by creating Inspiratus Feature Columns on this blog. This page lists four main columns or categories under which I will file the majority of my blog posts. Folks can navigate to this page and click on a column banner to find all the articles saved under that heading. I hope this will make it easier for folks to search for and find which thread or subject they wish to read.

      I just want to comment on your statement, “Present the truth in so far as you understand it and those ready to receive it will be grateful for it.” This is just beautiful and so simply stated. Though you shared this idea to be used in the context of church services, this is a true instruction for performers of all kinds — in or out of church.

      In acting we talk about “the reality of doing.” The spiritual translation of that is “Be honest. Live truthfully in this moment. Be honest and true right now, here, in this moment.” Those audience members or congregants who are also living truthfully in that moment will receive the message — and they will be grateful.

      Thank you, David, for bringing your keen spiritual sense to this discussion.

      Reply
  • 3. carolyn Kardinal  |  August 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    It’s interesting that “From a Distance” was chosen as a solo for a church service. As much as I love that song, I have often wondered how anyone could feel so separated from God as to think He is watching us from a distance. The message seems to be the opposite of everything I go to church to learn: e.g., the unity of God and man.

    As a soloist, lyricist, and composer, I have loved exploring new music styles and new ways of presenting the spiritual insights God has given me. What I discovered along the way is that my congregation value the message of the words above all else. Some were resistant to “jazzier” styles of music, but for the most part were tolerant of the presentation, so long as the words, which were passed out to each attendee prior to the service, had a relationship to the subject of the lesson and were in keeping with the basic beliefs which were being taught in the Service. Those of us charged with selecting the solo (usually that’s the soloist’s job, although sometimes the music committee needs to help) must be mindful of 1. the content of the solo words in relationship to the lesson sermon, and 2. the importance of the placement of the solo in the context of the Service. Since, in my church, we don’t have a choir, the solo is the only musical selection presented to the congregation. As such, and because it immediately precedes the lesson sermon, it must act as a segue between the announcements (basic housekeeping stuff) and the spiritual content of the Sunday Service. It must be “on target” regarding church theology and sermon message or it doesn’t fulfill its function. The setting of the words is secondary to the meaning of them, and although I know it’s wonderful to hear a piece with which one is familiar, no matter how professional the presentation, we, as soloists, must not miss the mark which is the message. It’s our obligation as paid professionals to adhere to the original intent of including a solo in the service. The ultimate expression of “being of one Mind” comes when the hymns and/ or scriptural readings and solo all dove-tail with the spiritual point made in the lesson sermon.

    Reply

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