Friday, July 9, 2010

Singing in the Movie Theatre, Singing in Church

Last night, we went to a Grease Sing-Along. It's the movie, in a traditional movie theatre, but each time there's a song, the lyrics appear, karaoke style, and the audience sings along. What fun, to be allowed, no encouraged, to sing in the movie theatre. What fun to revisit this movie. For more on the whole experience, go to this posting on my creativity blog.

I was struck once again by how rare it is to sing in large groups. I've said often that one of the reasons I value going to church is because it's one of the rare places that we're encouraged to sing in a large group setting, no matter how poorly we sing.

Our culture has moved towards celebrating the gifted individual, and sadly we see this aspect in many churches too. I've heard tell of many churches where no group singing occurs--only gifted soloists or groups need offer their talents. How sad.

As we sang in the movie theatre, I was struck by how many of the songs we all knew. I'm sure that's because many of us have spent many hours listening to the soundtrack over and over again, probably while singing in our bedrooms and in the car.

Here we see the value that music can have for spiritual formation. Putting a piece of Scripture or a theological thought to music can help us learn and remember better. Singing those songs over and over again will cement them in our memory.

Of course, if we don't go to church regularly, we're not singing those songs regularly. And the problem with the explosion of church music in the last half century is that we're often not returning to songs. I remember so many hymns from the church of my childhood, so many songs from camp and youth group. The music was different from group to group, but the repetition was there. I wonder what the current generation will remember--or if they'll remember, since we're a generation that downloads music but doesn't often sing it.

I think one of the reasons that we sang so exuberantly in the movie theatre is that we're not often encouraged to sing exuberantly elsewhere. I'd love to see the modern church be in the vanguard of societal institutions working to change that fact.

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