What would it look like to offer up worship with reverence and awe? Well, it may not be quite what you expect! It certainly wasn’t what I expected as I opened up Hebrews with a group of Christians some time ago. Don’t get me wrong; I knew the “golden verse” on why we do church at all was in there (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:24–25, NIV). That was no shocker, and I think most of us knew it practically by heart.
When we enter a worship setting, we’re often met by a cacophony of sounds: the hum of friendly greetings, the strum of a guitar, the laughter of young children. We absorb God’s Word and proclaim God’s glory through speaking and listening and singing. But what happens when the person walking through the doors of our church is deaf? How does one participate in worship, specifically musical worship, without the ability to hear?
We all want to see more millennials active in the church. A simple observation most Sunday mornings bares the statistical truth that this demographic is much smaller than other generations in worship. Although this reality can be explained by several cultural and sociological obstacles, it is discouraging that more emerging adults (ages eighteen to thirty) are not active in the life and work of the church. The gifts and experiences of emerging adults are vital to the church’s flourishing, and the church has much to offer them in community, support, and spiritual formation.
James Abbington, known affectionately as “Jimmie” to his many friends, is a an amazingly versatile musician/scholar who is committed to the study and practice of worship music from the African American heritage. He is equally at home playing the piano, Hammond organ, or pipe organ; directing a choir; directing a conference; or composing, writing, and editing books and music on aspects of African American church music (see box).
Can Songs Bring Reconciliation? A Conversation I-to Loh, Patrick Matsikenyiri, Mary Oyer, and Pablo Sosa, with C. Michael Hawn, Moderator
The following conversation was recorded at Symposium 2003, the conference on worship and the arts held at Calvin College each January. Participating in the conversation were several giants in the field of global song for Christian worship who have much to offer Western Christians from their years of ministry throughout the world: