Over the past few weeks in worship, we've introduced worship styles and song selections new to our congregation. In the first two weeks, we included one song at some point during another active part of the liturgy, like offering or communion, but didn't project lyrics. Strategically, we did this in the hopes that people would develop an initial interest and engage at their own level. Yesterday, we included the words and invited the congregation to sing with us. The results shocked me.
You need to know a few things about our congregation to understand why. We're a 124-year-old Lutheran congregation that, in the past, hasn't shown a passion for singing . Our people like songs well enough that we host an annual holiday Christmas concert, but when given the chance to sing, we as a community don't often seem confident. This isn't necessarily related to talent, for when we do sing it sounds quite nice! Yet, something in our relational dynamic kept our vocal praises reserved.
Until yesterday, that is.
As we introduced this new music, our entire worship experience took on new life. It was already an exciting day for us as a church. We rededicated our renovated sanctuary, welcomed a new member, and consecrated the giving estimates for the coming ministry year. This excitement, combined with this fresh worship style, brought a volume and a passion to these voices that I'd never heard before that moment. This benefited the hymns and liturgical music as well. All of our songs, those we'd sang for decades and those we put on our lips for the first time, took on a new life in the spirit.
This is one of the reasons that Psalm 96 and 98 encourage us to sing a new song to God. We're not encouraged to ditch the old standards we love, but instead, to allow the new music to reinvigorate our participation in the well worn tunes of our past. As we contribute new pieces to our worship practices, the traditions of the past may also find a new breath of life.
After worship, another member of our community said to me, "I think we crossed the threshold today." He was absolutely right. We made a transition as a community, heard in our song, but seen in our growth of participation in mission. That new song gave voice to the new life we've found in Christ, lived not just on Sunday mornings but throughout the week in our mission and ministry in the New River Valley. I'm excited to see what comes next.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.