It's a truism that Christianity lives and breathes as much (or more) through music as through preaching or teaching, to say nothing of dense theological texts--so Christian preachers and teachers should be on the lookout for ways to incorporate the great hymns of the tradition into our sermons, lessons and other theological work.
The hymn "Tukutendereza Yesu" is a staple of Kenya's booming Christian music industry. Across modern East Africa, the song is hard to avoid. But just why is it so successful?
Early Christian writers recognized music's emotional power. Just as often, however, they commended it for its powers of harmony--in both the musical and extramusical sense.
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
The struggle to choose the hymns for the small rural congregation I serve is a microcosm of the challenges faced by members of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (PCOCS) as it decides what hymns and songs to include in the next Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) hymnal and electronic resources.
A tacit assumption is that PowerPoint computer presentations are merely a means to an end, a value-neutral tool used for innocent, even noble purposes: enlarging text for the hard of seeing; reducing the demand for printed materials; bringing younger people, who spend much of their lives in front of screens—TV, computer, cell phone, PDA—into worship. But PowerPoint is not value-neutral. As information design analyst Edward Tufte has argued, PowerPoint promotes a kind of cognitive style that routinely disrupts, dominates and trivializes content.
There are great gifts—both theological and musical—in the songs being sung in Japan and Peru and Zimbabwe. If those of us in the Northern Hemisphere do not within the next ten years sing the songs of Asia, Africa and South America in worship, our exclusion of them will be deemed racist. It will be seen as a case of musical apartheid.By joining other Christians in song, we in the body of Christ share the joy and the pain of fellow members, most of whom are black and poor, not white and affluent.