Let the outreach – Shine!

Author: The Revd Timothy Weston

Published on: 29 December 2017

Rather out of the blue, I received an email asking if I would write an article explaining how important music is to the act of worship, including comments on selection and delivery.

I have a small amount of musical experience as I found myself leading the music group Shine! at Watton for a number of years. In my time with them, we usually had 6 – 8 singers plus rhythm guitar, base guitar and, for a while, drums.

I count myself fortunate that now I worship where a small but excellent choir sing their anthems during the distribution just in front of the pews and facing the congregation. Being close, I feel involved despite just listening. Having received, I sit quietly praying, allowing the music to wash over me, taking me into a deep communion with God.

A congregation needs to be led by the singers but, unless their volume is enhanced, they won’t be heard. That is why you will see music groups and praise bands using microphones and speakers. Mixing desk and speakers need not be too expensive and they can be very useful away from the church in village halls, high streets, outside services and so on. And why not let your local, aspiring teenage pop group use the equipment – good outreach?

If you are like me, public singing can be very embarrassing, so I don’t – I mime, which isn’t uplifting at all. But if there is a good volume, organ or group, I can sing loudly too with only me and God hearing my efforts – and he doesn’t seem to mind.

But is music important in worship? Well, music seems to be important to most of us, in church or out. Look at the wonderful singing at Welsh rugby matches, at football grounds, and at the Proms on the last night. If music wasn’t important, if it didn’t lift us and give us joy and emotion, there wouldn’t be any. So, of course it is important in worship. It has the ability to take us out of ourselves. It surrounds and uplifts. It can move us to laughter or tears. It helps us put aside our immediate problems and cares, helping us into a place where we can concentrate our hearts and minds on God. Music seems to draw a congregation together in a shared experience which then translates into moving collective worship. Most of all, musicians and singers, remember why you are playing or singing. It is not a performance. Your role is to enhance worship, to lead and help others into a space where they can experience the presence of God. In this task, yours is a giving role whereby the needs of the congregation take precedence even if, sometimes, you do not particularly like what you are playing or singing.

But, in my experience, there is nothing like a joyful response to encourage you. Shine! once went into Wayland Prison to their Sunday Service with all our gear and played ‘Amazing Grace’ to the tune of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. The singing almost raised the roof and the resultant worship was extraordinary. Try it, sometime.

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