It happened again. Penny and I attended a worship service together this past Sunday evening. Immediately after the benediction, the people that were seated in front of us turned around and complimented Penny for her beautiful voice during the singing of the hymns.
Of course, I interrupted like I usually do and pretended that they were referring to my beautiful singing. I said, "Oh, thank you so much. That is so nice of you to say."
This time, one of the ladies pointing right at Penny said, "No, we mean her!"
These fun exchanges always remind me of how awesome congregational singing could be in our churches if only we would internalize the lyrics and sing out our faith. Yes, I know that not all of us have the spiritual gift of singing, but all of us are called to be fully engaged in all parts of worship including the singing of hymns and praise songs.
To help reclaim congregational singing, these little reminders can make a huge difference in the quality of our collective singing:
- Think of the placement and the purpose of each hymn in the service. Typically, the opening hymn is one of praise and thanksgiving. Nothing sets the tone of worship like the opening hymn. As John Wesley reminds us, sing "lustily and with a good courage." Even a hymn that sets up the prayer can be sung with conviction. The closing hymn is chosen to help us take the message of he worship service with us to our homes, our work place, and to wherever we go.
- Think about the words that are in the hymn. One of the reasons hymns have several verses is because they tell a story. The verses build on each other. Allow the lyrics to grip your heart to the point where you can't help but to sing out your faith.
- If you still feel that you can't sing out, at least mouth the words silently and be engaged during congregational singing. Just the visual of seeing everyone singing out is a powerful witness.
Singing in church is becoming one of those neglected spiritual disciplines. What if we reclaim this powerful way of expressing our faith through congregational singing? Would our churches begin to resemble the singing in this Welsh Church? (See video below.)
And if you ever sit in the pew in front of me during a worship service and compliment me for my singing, I can't take all of the credit. My wife is a pretty good singer, too.