The images abound in stock video footage accompanying stories on evangelicals, the religious right, megachurches and the culture wars—the obligatory shots of middle-class worshipers, usually white, in corporate-looking auditoriums or sanctuaries, swaying to the electrified music of “praise bands,” their eyes closed, their enraptured faces tilted heavenward, a hand (or hands) raised to the sky.
"The rising of the sun / And the running of the deer, / The playing of the merry organ / Sweet singing in the choir” rings the chorus of “The Holly and the Ivy,” a favored carol of the season. It inspires me to a love song, an overdue tribute to the pipe organ, producer of merriment, inspirer of awe, mimic of angelic choruses, undergirder of hymns.
Back when 19th-century Methodists were debating whether to sponsor seminaries and promote a “learned ministry,” one bishop, it was said, opposed the idea. He connected vital faith and piety with ignorance. Challenged by a critic who asked the bishop whether he was thankful for his own ignorance, he proudly answered yes.
I’ve seen a lot of religious improvements come and go. I remember the “last day” emphasis in teen camp sermons. I was around for the concept of “sancta-nasium,” when the church sanctuary was combined with a teen-centered gymnasium.
Michael Lerich ought to be a hero to church musicians and pastors, most of whom abhor the music chosen by bridal couples for church weddings. “Trust us,” says Lerich. Couples should “leave their personal musical tastes at home. What you listen to in the car or at home with a bottle of merlot does not always transfer” to a wedding celebration.