Sunday, June 30, 2013

What Songs Do You Sing In Church?

When we sing uncommon songs in church, it turns the singing into a concert of only a few - that of the Worship Team. I have nothing against contemporary Christian songs or upbeat/new P&W songs (because I love most of them too), but I feel that community singing in church must have songs that the congregation knows by heart. Otherwise, it’s just another emotional moment for a few, while the rest is torn between trying to decode the words of the song and marveling at how beautiful the voice of the singers are, or how good the bassist is (the latter is always the case for me).


Maybe my heart is not right.

Or maybe it is just longing to publicly declare the goodness of God in a language I know. The language of songs that I grew up singing in church. The language of songs that are already imbedded in my heart. Songs like “Great is thy faithfulness” was what I blurted out many times God has given me victory. When I felt unstirred, singing the lines “There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,..” and welling up in the chorus “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...sweetest name I know” brought me back to the excitement of having Jesus in my life.

There’s Victory in Jesus. I know whom I have believed. What a friend we Have in Jesus. Amazing Grace. All the way my savior leads me. I could go on mentioning all the beautiful hymns that has been the soundtrack that plays over my head in this life I live with Christ. Even the words in their titles are already powerful. And should we start talking about the history of these hymns? There’s a vast array of stories that only heaven is big enough to accommodate.

My favorite heartbreak song is “It is well with my soul”. That, and “Farther Along”. And I am only 32. Haha!

Everyone in our family enjoys singing hymns and familiar gospel songs. And no, we don’t wear long skirts. And each one of us has a ‘chipped edge’ he is not proud of. We are so not the "holy, holy -type".

When I was in high school, one of our projects was to cook Palitao in our Home Economics class. My group mates and I were sitting around the kalan waiting for the dough we dropped in the boiling water to float. A few minutes passed and the palitao still did not float. We were so scared that we will fail at this attempt and face the wrath of our teacher. (Those who have been in Mrs. Ascura’s class know what I mean. Hello Maam! ) We were helpless but not hopeless. Then my classmate and I started singing “God will make a Way.” A couple of minutes later, the dough started to surface in the boiling water. I am sure it wasn’t the song that made it float. (I found out later it takes a few minutes and a certain temp for the Palitao to be cooked). But we countered our seemingly defeated spirits with words from a song in church that summed up our hopes. Thinking about that incident makes me laugh. Faith over palitao doesn’t sound so monumental as compared to Moses’ facing the red sea. But for me, it was.

In May, I attended the Global Discipleship Congress in Manila at the new facility of CCF. We had over 7 thousand people in the auditorium. People from different countries, denominations, discipleship programs, modes of worship...and yes, choice of songs. During singing, many noticed that the building was swaying. Especially if a familiar song comes up on the playlist. (And we were told the swaying was normal…hehe). On the 2nd day, when the youth praise team came up, the sound system broke down before they could even start. The technical glitch took a few minutes to fix. While everyone was blankly waiting, an instrumental version of the song “I love you Lord” was faintly playing in the background. It didn’t take long before the whole congregation started singing the words to it. And an even more beautiful thing happened. The music died. The whole auditorium was turned into a giant acapella choir. All 7,000 of us…singing one song. Without lyrics on the overhead. In tears. Spontaneous. No worship leaders, just worshipful hearts. It was a glimpse of heaven.

I work (and live) in a Bible school and so I hear these new worship songs night and day. They have become familiar to me. I can sing them if they are played in church. I am glad in my church we still sing familiar songs. But whenever I attend churches who have eliminated hymns, my heart would break for the old people. They, who have seen God’s mercies longer than we, the younger generation have, are not given the opportunity to declare it. Their hairs have turned gray from watching the church’s seasons turn. And they are still there because they have anchored their faith in a timeless God. And maybe, they wish to sing timeless songs too.

Last year, my friend and I attended the dedication of our common friend’s daughter. When he saw that the opening song in the liturgy is “To God be the Glory”, his face lit up and proudly told his partner “I know this song!” He sang with all gusto as if the words were coming out from his heart. After which, he turned to me and said, “I missed going to church.”

I saw right there the power of singing together as a body of Christ. Congregational singing is supposed to connect us, not alienate us.

Again, I am not against contemporary music in church. I am against singing it when only a few know the songs. And it’s not hard to tell when that happens.

Have I hit a nerve? Or you think I am just getting
 old? Haha!

Disclaimer: i believe worship is more than just singing. But that would be for a totally different post. Hehe