With the start of the new Sunday School term, we have new adult classes starting on January 13. One of these options is a short overview of Church Music History with Greg Wilbur. I asked Greg to give us a preview of the class as well as why this is a relevant topic.
Part of the beauty of tradition is the opportunity to connect with the past and our history, to benefit from the wisdom of others, and to celebrate with the “great clouds of witnesses” that have gone before. However, tradition can also be a hinderance, or too easily cast aside, if we do not continually remind ourselves of why we do what we do. This fact is especially true with regards to worship and music.
Over the past few decades, we have walked through what has been called “the worship wars” in which various people advocated either hymns or “contemporary” music for use in worship. However, both sides in this discussion were arguing about music in a way that, for the most part, ignored what has commonly been considered the purpose and power of music for thousands of years. How has thinking about music changed over time?
The purpose of this upcoming Sunday School class is to provide context and understanding about music in the Church—how the Church has used music and how the Church has thought about music. Why do we sing in worship? Where did hymns come from? Where did contemporary Christian music come from? Does musical style matter? What does it mean to be reverent, joyful, and relevant?
I believe that if we take the time to increase our understanding of where our traditions and practices come from, we can more readily appreciate them and respect them. I also believe that we can more easily separate the principles of why certain practices originated or developed from the actual practices themselves. In other words, the goal is not to duplicate the past but to understand the biblical principles that formed the foundations for decisions in the past and to apply those same principles in the time and place that God has placed us.
As such, the study of the role, development, and practice of music in Church history is a fascinating and lively exploration that has particular application to what we do in worship on a weekly basis. The topics will be:
1. January 13—From Synagogue to Early Church
The Role of Music in Early Worship, pt 1
2. January 20—Codification of Church Music: Gregory the Great
The Role of Music in Early Worship, pt 2
3. January 27—The Advent of Harmony and Polyphony: The Music of the Spheres
4. February 3—Reformation and Worship in Leipzig under Bach
5. February 10—Rise of Hymnody
6. February 17—Untune that String
Come join us in the Chapel for this quick overview and discussion of Church music. And, yes—we may even sing a bit.