Lyrics and Church – Part 2

May 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm 1 comment

JW_alabadoHere’s another really interesting aspect of Lyrics and Church: What happens when people have divergent theological interpretations of a song’s lyrics that you sing in church? It probably occurs far more than we musicians realize. Not everyone speaks up. But when someone does, it always gives me pause for thought and reflection.

I sang a beautiful contemporary anthem in church not so long ago. It was actually the second time I had performed this song in a three-year period, and also had recorded it on my Inspirational Spanish CD.

One Bread, One Body” (or “Un Pan, un Cuerpo”) was written by John Foley. It’s Communion message comes directly from the New Testament. On the day that I most recently sang this song, the sermon was all about unity and loving our fellow man. Verses in the song directly referenced Bible citations in the sermon.

Normally when choosing solo music, I pray, study, research and listen for creative, divine direction. There’s so much wonderful sacred music in this world — so much to choose from! I love discovering, being introduced to or bumping into that next great song of light and inspiration.

One Bread, One Body” was just such a song for me. So, for this particular Sunday, the song seemed to fall into place on its own – it announced itself to me. It was the right choice for that day.

After performing it in the service, a very sincere and thoughtful gentleman emailed to question the validity of using this song in the church where I sing. He had certainly done his homework and knew the religious origin of the composer. The man had heard it sung in a church of that other denomination many times. His perspective was that this song belonged in that church but not this one.

I deeply respect this man’s thoughtful questioning of the message. In him is a listening, spiritual thinker.

On the other side of the coin, I received a whole lot of positive, grateful feedback from folks who loved the message, and the contemporary musical treatment of this universal subject of Communion.

I say “universal” because Communion and its symbols in the Bible — bread, wine, etc, are major ideas that many denominations embrace. Literal, metaphorical and spiritual interpretations of these symbols abound.

I think the gentleman objected to this song because in his experience, it was slanted toward a specific theological view of Communion that differed greatly from his own current spiritual vision. I can understand that since he first learned of “One Bread, One Body” in a completely different religious environment, his view of the song was wedded to that other tradition.

In contrast, I loved how the song and its message joyfully highlighted the spiritual definition of Communion contained within the sermon.

So, what do you do with this?

I don’t think there is an easy answer. I do think everyone is entitled not only to their own sense of theology, but more importantly, their ever-growing sense of spirituality. Also, it is a truth that both music and the Bible have crossed over religious and cultural boundaries for millenia. Much of our sacred music is shared across many denominations.

When I choose music for services, I look first at the lyrics’ origin – not the lyricist’s origin. “One Bread, One Body’s” lyrics came from the New Testament. Of all the song choices I found, this song best expressed, to my sense, the over-arching message contained in the sermon that day.

Conclusions: A disagreement of this sort simply creates an opportunity for all involved to think more deeply, pray more earnestly and learn from differing viewpoints.

If the motives are honest in the research, the discovery, and the delivery of the song, then those motives will protect the message, and ultimately allow the song to fulfill its mission. (My goal for the mission is always inspiration and healing.)

I am grateful for this man’s inquiry. He made me think it through again. He essentially asked me to explore one more time what I understood the song to be about and why I chose it.

In the end, I found myself where I started: singing a message of unity and universality — but with my eyes opened to not only include, but be aware of other perspectives. This journey of thought energized and informed my outlook.

And this further insight makes it all worthwhile!


Entry filed under: Church Music, Have I Got A Song For You!, Inspirational Music, Inspirational Sheet Music, Inspiratus, Performance, Sheet Music, Spiritual Thinkers. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Lyrics and Church — Part 1 A Blog Is Born (well, its name is, anyway)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Marty Coleman  |  May 29, 2009 at 4:25 am

    What I like about you, Julia, is that you understand that great art is not restricted by the intent of the creator.

    One of my favorite quotes regarding creativity and intent is:
    “Great art transcends its intentionality, otherwise all crucifixes would be equally great.”


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