Corporate Worship, Christian Community & Social Action
CHRIST & NEIGHBOR
I’ve been singing in a Protestant church for the last eight or ten years. I also sing in a little folk choir (one guitar) at Sunday evening Mass from time to time, and on a regular basis attend Mass in two other Catholic churches, Sunday and/or daily. One of these is a marvelous little church in a black ghetto where one finds true agape, a Greek word defined in my dictionary as “in the early Christian church, the love feast accompanied by Eucharistic celebration.” You might think I spend a lot of time in church; well, I need it.
I enjoy singing with my fellow choristers so much, and I enjoy the Protestant service and its excellent sermons so much, that I thought it appropriate to write a column — this one — on the connection between the quality of corporate worship, one’s sense of Christian community, and effective social action.
Singing, music is important — if it’s good singing and good music. This Protestant church has an organist and choir director who is a good musician. If you can find a competent volunteer to do the job, okay, but the odds are that you won’t find one unless you pay. And in my opinion, money spent for a good choir director is better spent than money for repainting the church, even if it needs it. What happens inside the church is more important than what the church looks like. First things first.
A good choir is important not only for its own sake, but for the fact that without a choir you rarely get good congregational singing, which in turn is so important to the quality of the service. The Protestants are way ahead of Catholics here. Their congregations are used to singing. Ours are not. Ours have to be coaxed, led, surrounded with singing before they will let go. This being so, you are licked before you start if the congregation is small and scattered, lost within a large church. That is why I cannot understand why we don’t rope off the back pews in such churches so that the people have to sit together and can begin to feel that they are a united community, an integral part of the Body of Christ. And not afraid to sing about it.
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