Thursday, May 27, 2010

A question running through my mind

Lately I have been pondering the definition of "Contemporary Worship" and being the tech savvy person I am, I decided to ask the Internet.

According to Wikipedia: "Contemporary worship music (CWM) is a loosely defined genre of Christian music which has developed over the past sixty years and is stylistically similar to pop music. The songs are frequently referred to as ‘praise songs’ or ‘worship songs’, and are typically led by a worship band, with a guitarist leading. Today it is arguably the most common genre of music sung in churches — particularly in Protestant churches, both denominational and nondenominational. Some songs are even featured in more traditional hymnals" (emphases is mine)

So to me this is one of the broadest definitions possible. But when I think about it, contemporary worship is a huge swath of different styles both in music and order of service.

Here is what we currently have as a worship description at Word of Peace:

Traditional Worship
This service uses liturgy from the Lutheran Book of Worship. Music is accompanied by organ and piano with a cantor leading.
Blended Worship
This service uses contemporary liturgy and a mix of hymns and contemporary songs. The music is led by Spirit Wind.
Contemporary Worship
This service uses lots of contemporary music, the worship style flows easily and is easy to follow. The music is led by the band Sol(e)d Out.

I don't think that does what we do here justice.

When I was growing up, my church (a wonderful Missouri Synod Lutheran Church) wanted to add a contemporary worship service to the mix once a month. They enlisted a few guitarists, vocalists, piano, bass, and a drummer. This was by far a huge deviation to the normal organ, piano, hand bells and choir arrangement of services. I saw it as a good opportunity to learn more about this guitar I was learning to play, so I joined as well. Some of the favorite songs included: He is Exalted by Twila Paris and As the Deer. The group was solid and fun to play with and since I had no real knowledge of Christian music at the time other than the hymns, I was fine with whatever we did.

I eventually graduated, went to college, discovered contemporary Christian music, worked at a Bible camp, lead worship in College, went on a music ministry team to India and Nepal that played popular Christian music, became a youth director and eventually added Contemporary Worship Leader at Word of Peace as one more thing.

But now I have come upon a bit of a personal struggle. I have heard a few comments circulating about describing contemporary music and or the group that I lead,
Sol(e)d Out Worship, that have made me think.

First, you must understand that we at Word of Peace love different styles of worship. We have 4 services and all 4 are different. They are currently labeled: Traditional, Blended, Contemporary, and Contemporary. Some of the comments I have heard have both been encouraging and challenging in the same breath. Things like, "Are you playing on Sundays during the summer? I hope so because I miss it when you don't." Or "Having Sol(e)d Out at the Blended service won't work because they are too loud." Or "The contemporary service on Sunday and Monday are the same thing because we do the same music."

The last comment really made me think and wonder what "Contemporary Worship" really is. Right now, I can only believe that it is anything that is not Traditional organ lead worship. But for the sake of the people that worship Jesus at Word of Peace and those that visit our website and church, I would hope that we could do a better job at describing what we do here.

If I were to describe the services at Word of Peace it would be something like this:

Traditional 8:00am (8:30 during the summer): What a Lutheran most likely grew up with. A worship filled with liturgy straight from the hymnal. The organ, piano and a Cantor (lead vocalist) lead the congregation in hymns, kyrie, sung psalms, and musical communion liturgy. Special music during this service is provided occasionally by the Adult Choir (Voices of Peace), hand bells (Angel Wings), Men's quintet (Harmony), small women's choir (Deo Glorious and other instrumental pieces. We do not use hymnals, but the printed bulletins you receive as you enter serve the same purpose with all hymns and liturgy printed in it.

Blended 9:30 (10:00 during the summer): Very similar to what Lutherans grew up with and find familiar. This worship service is a gathering of both Traditional and Contemporary elements of worship. Typical accompaniment is by Organ and Piano with very occasional other instrumentation such as sax or drums. Songs range from hymns to contemporary music written between the 60's and 2000's. Parts of the service liturgy are sung such as the psalm and Gospel acclimation. Special music during this service is provided occasionally by the Adult Choir (Voices of Peace), hand bells (Angel Wings), Men's quintet (Harmony), small women's choir (Deo Glorious and other instrumental pieces as well as the kids choirs (Grace Choir and Kids of the Kingdom). Hymns, songs and liturgy are all projected on the screen at the front of the church with your bulletin serving as a worship outline.

Contemporary lead by Sol(e)d Out Worship 11:00 (Varies during the summer): A high energy laid back service that draws on the fantastic traditions of the Lutheran church. The contemporary service at 11:00 focuses on music and the word. You will find music lead by a full band with acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, mandolin, keys, and drums (both drum set and hand drums). Songs sung include modern arrangements of traditional hymns and modern Christian worship songs by artists like Lincoln Brewster, Hillsong United, Christ Tomlin, and Paul Baloche. Loud Congregational singing and clapping is encouraged. Special music is often provided by Sol(e)d Out as well as the kids choirs (Grace Choir and Kids of the Kingdom) with occasional appearances by the adult choir (Voices of Peace) and hand bells (Angel Wings). Songs and Readings are projected on screens at the front of the sanctuary so that all are included.

Contemporary lead by Wing and a Prayer 6:30 pm Monday Nights (Varies during the summer): This worship service is extraordinarily laid back and shorter than any other service at 45 minutes. It is a service of song and word lead by vocalists, piano and drums. Songs sung during this service are contemporary and range anywhere from the 60's and 70's to the newest worship songs. This service is a great place to be after a long Monday or a crazy busy weekend.

There...that makes me feel a little better. I really think it is important to describe what we do here at Word of Peace because that way there is no confusion and if you have a preconceived notion as to what traditional, blended or contemporary worship is please put that aside and come and see what we have going here. You may just connect with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a way you never expected.



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