Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Recently a visitor to Bethany-Naperville commented positively on the choir, noting that "their singing had life to it."

Their song indeed has life. It is a privilege for me to conduct Proclaim (the adult choir at Bethany). They have hearts for the Lord, and a desire to use their musicianship to magnify His Word. Accordingly, they work with me on polishing sound and developing their instrumnets in a way that many church choirs would resist.

So often church choir members consider their service only to be their personal sacrifice of praise. At best, they then see their sacrifice as an offering on behalf of the assembly. I call that "vertical worship". It's just them & Jesus - and we get to watch. By God's grace, though, I am blessed to be at a place where the choir is devoted to the Lord's ministry, and so they understand their service to be not only their sacrifices of thankfulness and priase, but also a participation in the proclamation of His Word (hence the name). I call this "cruciform worship", because it is horizontal as well as vertical. The choir sings to God and to the assembly, sharing the gifts they receive from Him.

This makes all the difference on so many levels.


IggyAntiochus said...

The first time I heard the term "vertical worship" was on the local non-denom radio station. I thought, "Oh, they've figured out God comes to us in worship!"

Silly me, what was I thinking, they meant only that our praise ascends to God.

Unknown said...

It's interesting that I ran into this post........

I attended Bethany for quite sometime on a pretty regular basis until I became separated a while back. Dealing that that loss, for me - returning to Bethany was a horrible reminder of what "once was" in my PERSONAL life. It had nothing to do with Bethany by any means. So I have since then returned to my home Church. That being said, I truly miss the music at Bethany!

Being a Lutheran organist myself and having that passion for music and love for my Lord I could obviously see the difference between singing a few words on paper and singing from one's heart directly to our Lord.

I was always happy to see someone such as yourself who the Lord has blessed with such talent, be able to take that talent and use it not just as a "performance" but as an offering to to God from the heart. The attention to detail(pairing music with the day's scripture) and reverence just proved to me, "you got it!"

So many times it's just a jazzy number, snappy refrain, or lovely melody that people look for. You mastered both extremely well. The word and music. It then in my book becomes word IN music. I'm sure you well know yourself it's almost preaching in itself. Making people take notice that there IS meaning and reason we sing.

I can only assume you are a lot to do with the reason your choral group(s) do such a beautiful job in praising our God.

Over my years as serving as organist I have had so many compliments week after week by members. But what is funny, is they know there is a difference between myself and other organists we have/had but can't quite figure out "what" that difference is - but they like it. They like it because it allows them to do what the music provided should do. Encourage and support their singing. Not just to sing. But to sing to our Lord from their hearts.

I have been blessed with a congregation that LOVES to sing. When you actually have people with tears in their eyes and kleenex's popping out after a hymn they just sang to Jesus - you know, they "get it" too.

On a side note, I love the fact the Podcasts are posted. From time to time I listen. I can't get enough of the last Tenebrae service I attended in 2009. To hear the solo of "Calvary" by John Carter sung from your soloist soul and your choir singing "Thy will be done." Experiencing your heartfelt emotions as well from your heart to God in your piano playing and organ registration is pure delight!

May our Risen Lord continue to bless your service to him. What better way to return thanks to our God!

Phillip Magness said...

"Lutheran", you have chosen to remain anonymous. But know that your words have sincerely touched me and that I appreciate very much your sharing them with me.

God's peace be with you.

In Christ,


Phillip Magness said...

P.S. Be sure to listen to the podcast of the Maundy Thursday service. Susan (Gavin) Keller did a fantastic job with the women's chorus! :)