Friday, June 26, 2009

Worship Snob or Contemplative?

This week a colleague and I were given the opportunity to lead worship for 3000+ people at a conference in San Antonio. I must confess it was nice to treated as special - hotel room (with a view of the Alamo from the window) and conference paid for, ushered backstage, roadies moving the piano and technicians setting up our mikes. We were even able to change the entire backdrop lighting and the visuals on the screen just by a simple request. It was nice to be spoiled.

I also got to experience a number of other worship sessions led in different styles. Some good, some not so much. I remember being in one afternoon session and getting v. confused by the lyrics to one song.

"And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise, on eagle's wings
Before my God fall on my knees,
and rise...I will rise"

We sang this chorus a lot! And we also repeated the phrase 'I will rise' many times. I'm sure it was meaningful for some people, but not for me. I wrote in my notebook during the session "How do you 'rise on eagle's wings' and 'fall on your knees' at the same time? All whilst 'You Rise'? Do eagles have knees???

The sudden clash of the images of Eagles and falling on knees with the main theme of 'I will rise' bothered me, as did the reverse sentence for no apparent reason - normally you would say "fall on my knees before my God", I cannot see any apparent reason this line has been reversed out of normal English, it isn't to make a rhyme which is the most common reason.*

The song, and the entire worship set bothered me.

It bothers me that it bothered me.

I've always been opinionated about worship and music writing. It used to be that I always had to be using the latest songs sung by the most up-to-date people. Here I was at the conference complaining to a friend that 'we haven't sung a single hymn'! I used to judge a worship experience by what I 'felt'. Now I'm overly judgemental about what I think could be emotional manipulation by the worship leader.

The worship I feel drawn too these days is more cerebral. It is quiet and reflective. I no longer mistake an 'emotional high brought on by hyped music' for the 'presence of God.'

I would rather just sit still with God. It feels like the companionship of a couple who have been together so long they can just together, they don't need to talk, and in fact sometimes talking gets in the way.

Even after all these years, my prejudices about worship still sometimes get in the way of my worshiping.

*I believe there is a craft to Lyric Writing, Composing and Worship Leading in the same way there is to painting. An artist must learn color, perspective, brush stroke, composition etc. Sadly, the 'craft' of music and worship leading seems to be fallen by the wayside -ignored or considered irrelevant. Worship leaders, please, at least learn to play the songs in a key that the majority of the congregation can sing it in, there is no point in you leading them if they can't follow!


Steve said...

Your observation: I no longer mistake an 'emotional high brought on by hyped music' for the 'presence of God.'

is something I have heard about Roman Catholicism - 'religion for the thinker'. Of course, there is now "Charismatic Catholicism" designed more for the emotional connection.

Is it possible God is present in both the emotional high and the quiet contemplative moment? Maybe it just depends on where *we* are?

Becca said...

I miss your worship leadership and now I know why! We'll have to visit your church sometime soon.

And contemporary worship songs whose lyrics make no sense drive me nuts!