Monday, July 6, 2009

Patriotic Music, the 4th of July, and Worship

When we walked into church yesterday, and I saw so many people wearing red, white, and blue, and so many men wearing ties with stars and stripes in the design of the cloth, I thought, oh, no, I should have stayed home.

I'm one of those strange people who feels that national flags don't belong in the sanctuary. I shudder when we sing patriotic songs during worship. I used to belong to a church that after September 11 sang "God Bless America" at every opportunity. I thought I would go out of my mind. If we must sing such songs, let's sing "God Bless Our Native Lands," so that we ask God to shower blessings on all lands.

Yesterday was our first July 4th week-end at our new church, and I'm happy to say that the hymn choices worked well. We sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (always a musical challenge, but I find it a joy to sing), "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," and "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory."

We had children hand out flowers to the people in the congregation who had served in the military. It was interesting to watch those members stand up; all of them were of retirement age. Only one woman stood. My spouse counted that 75% of the men of the congregation had served. Of course, since they're all of retirement age, that fact explains some of the issues facing the mainline Church, namely, the aging of the church and the absence of younger members to take the place of members who will be dying (assuming that our numbers are similar to mainline churches across the land, and according to statistics I've seen, they are).

We prayed a special prayer for those who serve in our military, and I see nothing wrong with that. I'm the daughter of an Air Force colonel, so I'm often reminded of how different my upbringing has been. However, I'm more reminded of that fact in academia than in church. In academia, I'm a real freak: Christian, poet, Air Force daughter, female Ph.D. (although this last fact is less bizarre than it once would have been--I'm an English Ph.D., after all, not a female with a Ph.D. in Chemistry or Engineering, which would still be unusual).

All in all, I thought that our worship planners did a good job recognizing our national holiday and integrating it into the service. So often, in other churches, I've seen the worship service subsumed to the patriotic agenda. It was nice to pray for the country and the military, while still realizing that our primary membership must be to the Kingdom of God.

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