Theological reflections on music in church

Michael Jensen shares some thoughts:

Part I

Sample quote:

But does this mean that church musicians are aesthetic relativists? I don't think it can mean this. We don't want to offer short-cuts here - ie, that the organ is a more sacred instrument than the electric guitar. That is just silly. No: what I mean is this. Without prescribing what the outcome is, I would expect that as music is pressed into the service of congregational singing and worship of God, it will be transformed as music. And this means that the church will continually be generating fresh styles as it puts the music it hears to holy purposes.

Which means that, while church musicians ought to be open to repeating what they hear around them, they ought also to be encouraged to innovate and develop their musical style as a reflection of what they are doing.....
A preacher I greatly admire once said to me when I put the relativist/pragmatic argument forward that no, there was definitely a style for church music. He said it was 'folk music'. Now, I think there is something in this - though I am not quite sure what he meant by 'folk'! That is, a style of music that achieves a marriage between the words of praise and the use in congregational singing can never be arbitrary, though it may vary enormously over time and place. It will be 'folk', I guess, if it is in the service of the people.

Part II

Sample quote;

The Psalms give us this theme of longing and desire for God. We Christians recognise that the popular song is a ready-made vehicle for the expression of longing and desire for God, because we instantly think of this when we hear it.

However, this is where the pitfalls lie, too. Since the 1930s the popular song has revealed itself to be capable of quite complex and even profound expressions of grown-up and mature emotions. But it has also been the musical vehicle for short-cuts to emotional fruition. It has lent itself to cheesiness - to the trite, the cheap, the quick, and the disposable. It has a tendency to be an adolescent form of music for expressing adolescent experiences - challenging no-one about anything. It can be extremely limited as a mode.

And while the popular song expresses much of what we might want to say to God, it doesn't capture all of the gestures and attitudes that are available to us...