The practice of teaching music forms us for:
• Creativity and engaged freedom
• Personal authority
• Love of God and of one another
At Music That Makes Community, we’re discovering how everyday life and worship are equally (and synergistically) labs or seedbeds for living fully human lives. We make liturgy to form a porous bond of solidarity. The bond is porous so that we can continue to welcome strangers, those “not like us” and “the unworthy”; the bond is stronger for it. This work is essentially a practice of hospitality that welcomes all into a group collaborating in making music.
Within this bond of solidarity, we form our character as people: our leaders imitate Christ and we imitate our leaders, and in the process we move towards generosity, freedom and spontaneity, both in our liturgies and in our lives. To paraphrase Simone Weil, “absolute attention is prayer.” We seek to engage our whole mental, physical and spiritual attention in worship. Our fully engaged presence is our best gift to one another and to God.
In order to connect in a real, honest way, we must be vulnerable to one another. We take risks in our leadership, and when we choose the wrong pitch or our voices crack or a song doesn’t work, we model forgiveness. We live into the dissonance and consider it all part of the holy work of coming together in song, in worship, in our life as the body of Christ.
A Holistic Approach to Church Music
Whether our music is new, ancient or world music, our practice is committed to renewing tradition and supporting a spirituality of singing (including the singing we do from text and paper). It is important to clarify which types of singing experiences we are offering an alternative to and why:
• This practice is not anti-book (i.e., hymnal). Certain forms require written music, but some forms do not. Singing without books or screens is a relational and human way to sing, it builds community and strengthens our ability to sing together in any context by emphasizing listening and awareness.
• This practice is not anti-instrument (you can sing with organ and without paper, for example) but there is a strong value here placed on the primacy of the human voice and the negotiation of shared leadership that we experience in those times we sing together without instrumental lead.
• This practice represents a bridge between “traditional” and “contemporary”; we find traditional vs. contemporary a false dichotomy. Oral traditions are old and have existed at some point in many cultures, and some cultures today are still exclusively oral, but to many this practice can seem very new, or at least different.
• Singing “by heart” can sometimes be misunderstood as simply singing from “memory”; the distinction is important. Our emphasis is on leadership, not memorization. We are cautious as we lead to avoid saying, “we all know this song…” Introducing a song this way can exclude (unintentionally) visitors and even some regulars. Along with traditional musical forms we are offering the corresponding teaching and leading methods of those traditions—imitation, call and response, and so forth—all of which make it possible to sing from heart without prior memorization.
• Paperless music is not an all-or-nothing musical choice for congregations—our intention is that MMC offerings will supplement and enhance what congregations already do, offering them more tools.
• In addition to techniques for leading communal music making, we are also exploring how we gather physically, the ways in which rearranging the space and positioning our bodies within it changes our sense of being a group.