Podcast: Reviving the Worship Wars

Mere FidelityOn this week’s episode of Mere Fidelity, Derek, Matt, Andrew, and I discuss the place that music and song have within our worship as the Church. We explore the divisive character of music in the Church, its proper telos, and how we could improve our practice.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Liturgical Theology, Music, Podcasts, Theological, Worship. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Podcast: Reviving the Worship Wars

  1. Geoff says:

    Not listened to this yet, but you are all probably aware of this contribution from Keith Getty, if not alluded to:

  2. quinnjones2 says:

    If Andrew were to shake a tambourine at one of our all-age services, several youngsters would probably pick up tambourines and join in with him 🙂
    When I listened to the podcast I was struck by the constraints we work under at our Anglican church when we choose hymns’songs – I’m not complaining about this, because I think it is a good discipline. There is no debate about the themes of hymns and songs because these reflect the Scripture readings (as do the sermons/talks) and the readings are taken from the lectionary. However, there is often debate about the choices of speficic hymns and songs, with preferences ranging from ‘nothing written before the 21st century’ to ‘nothing written after about 1960’. There are also different instrumental preferences (organ, drums & guitars, percussion, piano) We are a motley crew!
    I think that sung words are more easily learnt and retained than spoken words and I have reached this conclusion because of my experience of teaching German, and also some voluntary work I did with people with dementia. People with dementia seemed to remember songs, including hymns, long after they had forgotten many other things. I found that both children and adults learned and retained German phrases more effectively if they learnt the structures in songs. They also found group singing in German really enjoyable. A colleague recommended to me Uwe Kind*, who taught German in this way. So I welcomed Alastair’s suggestion that congregations might be taught hymns and songs and practise them together. (This sometimes happens at our church, on the initiative of our music leader.)
    *Here is one of Uwe Kind’s songs:
    (‘Wo ist hier ein Restaurant?’ – street directions sung to the tune of ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’!)

  3. quinnjones2 says:

    Apparently not!
    Take 3:

    • quinnjones2 says:

      I have just done a bit of parsing of the words in this little video clip and I am impressed with the elements of grammar that are contained in it. People who are not particularly linguistically inclined can learn a great deal quickly, as if by osmosis (a process that has been described as a ‘language bath’). I wish I could in the same way ‘parse’ some hymns/songs to demonstrate the richness of theological content of some apparently simple songs/ hymns – if I had the expertise, I might start on ‘St.Patrick’s Breastplate’, which Alastair spoke about in an earlier Mere-Fi podcast.
      This is all basic grammar, yet if I had attempted to explain it all to some learners before introducing the phrases in the song clip above, some of them would have been overwhelmed with the complexities of it and others might have started dozing off with boredom!
      I must be mad posting this now because I am preparing to move house and I have more than enough to do, but it has been on my mind and I think it is relevant to sung worship in church, so here is my bit of parsing of ‘Wo ist hier ein Restaurant?’ :

      -In addition to the vocabulary (place names, directions etc) the song includes the following (and possibly other things that I have overlooked so far).
      -Nouns: in German nouns begin with a capital letter ( eg das Restaurant) They also have three different genders, and all three occur in the song – masculine ‘der’ – eg ‘Markplatz – (market place/.square), neuter ‘das’ – Restaurant, feminine ‘die’ – Ecke (corner). These definite/indefinite articles occur in different cases – I shall mention the case system later in connection with prepositions.

      -Verbs: It is difficult to talk about verbs in German without also talking about word order. The main verb in the song is ‘ist’ (is) but there is also the modal verb ‘koennen’ (to be able to). Modal verbs have to be followed by an infinitive and the infinitive is sent to the end of the clause. In the following example from the song, the infinitive is ‘sagen’ (say/tell):
      ‘Koennen Sie mir bitte sagen, wo der Marktplatz ist?’
      Thus little sentence also contains a subordinate conjunction ‘wo’, which sends the verb ‘ist’ to the end of the clause.

      -Personal pronouns: the pronoun ‘Sie’ in the above quote is the ‘polite’ form of ‘you’, it can be singular or plural and is used to address strangers and higher-ranking people and generally with people older than ourselves, unless they give us permission to use the familiar forms ‘Du’ (singular) and ‘Ihr’ (plural).The pronoun ‘mir’ (me/to me) in the above quote from the song is in the dative case because it is governed by ‘sagen’, which always takes the dative case when it means ‘to tell’, as it does here.

      -The case system – as with other languages, German prepositions are followed by different cases. In the song are the prepositions ‘an’ (at/to) and ‘um’ (around). ‘Um’ is followed by the accusative case, but that rule is not evident here because ‘um’ is followed by ‘Ecke’ (fem.) and the feminine accusative is the same as feminine nominative. ‘An’ is more complicated as it is followed by the accusative case when it means ‘to’ and the dative case when it means ‘at’, as in ‘am ( = an+dem) Markt’.

      – Adjective endings: there is just one instance of this in the song – nettes = nett (nice) + es ) neuter ending, nominative (but is also used for the accusative) to agree with ‘Restaurant’.

      -Inversion – there is one instance of inverting the word order for emphasis: ‘Am Markt ist eins’ The word-for-word translation of this is ‘At the market is one’, but we would probably say, ‘There’s one at the market.’

      So all that is condensed into the few sentences in that little song clip!
      I think a great deal is also condensed into some of our worship hymns/songs and I bear this in mind when I help with hymn/song choices at our church.

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