Noticings – February 7, 2024

“Something is more important than music!”

This coming Sunday February 11th we’ll be having another ‘all praise and worship music’ service. We had one back in November, and we’ll have a couple more before June. If I had my druthers (see last week’s sermon!) I think I might actually reverse this pattern. If I was in charge, and I got my way all the time, I think I’d have praise and worship music every week, and then once every 6-8 weeks or so do a ‘classic hymns’ service for a change. Oh, I realize that cuts against the grain of ‘how we’ve always done it’ in the United Church of Canada. But that’s the form of worship that stirs my spirit, and draws me deeper, and inspires me to sing out praise with gusto. I could always go to a more evangelical expression of church where such music is the norm, but my great challenge is that such worship is almost always accompanied by extremely unpalatable theology, for me.

So what’s a fellow to do? Simple. I bend on my preference in favour of holding fast to something more important. Yes, I just said something is more important than music! The most wonderful music cannot make up for bad, misguided, hurtful, even hateful theology (and yes, I know that praise music can be chock full of bad theology, if not carefully curated). I’m not suffering terribly just because I can’t have my druthers. The music and hymnody in our church is quite wonderful. I enjoy it very much, even as I might enjoy other sounds even more. And I can always play those other sounds in my car, or at home.

Music style is a choice, or a preference. Other things in church are not. Take our being an Affirming congregation, for example. We had a long learning time before we became Affirming, and we explored what it would mean to claim that identity. What we didn’t do was debate whether or not it was a good thing to do. The timing might not have been right, for whatever reason (thankfully it was), but the justice and theological issue of truly honouring the personhood of all people is not something one has druthers about. God is love, so we must love. End of debate. I’m happy to bend on all sorts of non-essential things, like praise music, but one’s core values and principles one must not bend.

As Faith United enters a time of discernment and discussion about the future, keeping in mind that sense of honouring differences in preference while holding fast to core theological shared values will be important. There is a famous quote that I think will help. No one actually knows who first said it, but it goes:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

The great challenge, of course, is discerning what is truly an ‘essential’ and what just feels essential because it’s important to me. The last part speaks of charity. It comes from the Greek word ‘charis’ meaning grace, loving-kindness, and good will. So, how to proceed? Figure out what’s essential – unity. Respect the diversity of druthers (non-essentials) – liberty. And insist and ensure that through all the discussing and discerning and dreaming that grace, and loving-kindness, and good will are infused into every sentence.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the music on Sunday! I know I will!!!