Worship Log: Mama Mia! That Hymn is a Spicy Meetah-boll.

Long time no update. I think when a blog is going well, its a convenient outlet for organizing the rabid spirits in my brain into tangible coherent thoughts confined by time, space and (sometimes) cogency. I think as an extrovert, I resist blogging in the same way I resist journaling, prayer, solittude. I am a fallen creature!

Anyways, I have a brief spell here at starbucks before I descend into some hardcore fundraising administration (IE looking at spreadsheets). But I wanted to update to put down some thoughts on leading worship this upcoming weekend. Here’s the set:

Opener: Holy, Holy, Holy (hymn)

The Lord is Strong and Mighty (Kurt Carr, bonus: The link some absolutely adorable body worship)

Lord Prepare Me To Be a Sanctuary (Bishop Charles E. Blake arrangement)


Renuevame (Marcos Witt)

The Stand

Response: Be Thou My Vision

Quick Aside on “Be Thou My Vision”:

I’ve learned to be VERY careful when arranging hymns. They are kind of like the Italian Cuisine of Worship music. Italian Cuisine is incredibly ubiquitous and has a long and illustrious heritage in america, so people keep trying to make it new and fresh and stand. The problem is most of the time, the “new and improved” modern italian is more like “new and crappier.” Plain old SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALL MARINARA is delicious as it is thank you very much. I don’t want to try an barley noodle, grilled tofuball and sun dried organic tomato basil pesto reduction blah blah foodie blah. That is unless its AWESOMeLY GOOD.

Too many italian restaurants try to stand out, be hip and new and it just doesn’t taste GOOD. I wish they would have saved the time, effort, money and food and made a good old simple Ragu/Pregu/Olive Garden dish with just quality premium ingredients. So Hymns are like that, if you really feel like you can bring something new to the table in your arrangement (and something that wasn’t thought of in like the 300 years that Hymn was around then by all means, go for it!) but if not, just play it safe and go with what has worked for centuries and make sure you use the best possible incredients (that is, TALENT and SKILL).

I think here are two poignant examples on BTMV:

IMHO a fresh arrangement that contributes something new: ROBY DUKE. Now THAT’s a cover that they probably weren’t doing in the PUBS back in Ireland. (you can listen to him riff for a few minutes, the song begins at 2:55…)

IMHO one that doesn’t work at all, even with some of the Irish folk elements. It sounds like exactly what it is: a lackluster CCM version of an Irish jig. Its too hectic to dance to and the electric riffs feel plasticy and cliche.

A few elements I’ll be experimenting with this weekend:

1. Let’s get this party started? Starting a worship set.

I’ve never known the best way (or even if there is one) to start a worship set. I guess I can break it down to different approaches I’ve seen:

  • Straight Up: Saying goodmorning and a real informal welcome like you’re talking to friends or co workers. Straight forward and to the point. No frills, but can also lack energy and just be like eh. It may just be me, but I think white people really like this approach. Like I need to say “Hi” before worship or something.
  • The teacher: Similar to straight up, but more authoritarian…usually paired iwth a command to take a seat, stand up. It feels like a teacher getting a rowdy class together for roll call. I most dislike this one because it already gives the worship a strange feel.
  • MTV style: Start with a cover of a popular song and maybe feature a shredding lead guitar solo. Willow did this before every set at their leadership summit. Def. gets the congs attention.
  • Video: Like MTV, but letting a video or multimedia set the tone. If you just play a video and the volume is loud, it will naturally bring the meeting to order. There will be some stragglers who will continue their conversation, but its definitely a good method, that is, if there’s a quality video on hand to play.
  • Pretty song: Like MTV, but calling the worship with a worship song. the worship leader, choir, immediately start singing a song that just get’s thigns going. I think it can work in the right circumstance and be very seemless, but can also backfire if the congregation doesn’t get involved.
  • Pretty music: Calling the worship to order by playing really pretty instrumental music on guitar and/or piano. Kind of like a little pretty bell that signals, holy time, everyone… but can easily backfire.
  • Matt Foley: When the worship leader feels the need to be a motivational speaker. Usually starts with, I know you may have had a hard week, I’m sure we are all struggling. Big in the korean church. I do this ALL The time. I think it assumes a very pessimistic outlook on the world, that people are tired, burntout jaded, etc… I wonder if that’s more of what’s in the eye of the beholder?
  • Awkward Turtle: Abruptly praying or getting really serious. I’ve both done this and seen this happen. It really kills the energy

I’m sure the best approaches are found somewhere in combo of a few of these and depending on context. BUT I think I’m a firm believer that the Worship team needs to meet the congregation where their at. That’s why I despite the Teacher method. I feel that a worship leader needs to meet the congregation where its at, tired, rowdy, excited, sick, happy, cold. And sure its hard to lump a congregation into one whole, so I think it requires a nuanced approach. I think I gravitate to some approaches over the others (certainly the less direct ones), and I think that’s a reflection of my WL style in general.

This week, I’m going to tentatively go with pretty song and just sing a solo a capella of “Holy Holy Holy.” No talking. No greeting. That may be abrupt and awkward and I’ll play it by ear, but we’ll see what happens.

2. Bow Down to the Glowing Screen! To use or not to use PPT in worship.

Foolish Mortal, you are no match for the mighty overhead!!!!

Foolish Mortal, you are no match for the mighty overhead!!!!

I’m out of time, so I’ll keep this short (thundrous applause). I’m cutting the PPT for the two Gospel songs in the opening set. The lyrics are easy and they don’t use it in Gospel churches, so why should we use it here. Gospel music is about listening to each other, the leader, the choir, the congregation. And the screen is good when there are 10 verses in a hymn but in simple songs, its just a crutch. We’ll see what happens!

3. Shut up and Listen: Solo’s in Gospel Music

I think I’m going to have a quick explanation in “The Lord is Strong and Mighty” that this is a SOLO and how that functions in Gospel music. When Kirk Franklin or Fred Hammond say “LISTEN!” it isn’t just a random phraise to fill space, they really mean LISTEN to what I’m about to say. Its an exhortation.

There is a battle against you and me
But not a war that eyes can see
We wrestle not against fle   –    sh      and     blood
But power and principalities
So we must take up our spiritual weapons
And we must seek the refuge of God
For He is a strong and mighty  tower
The devil is defeated today by His power

4. Tag Team Worship Leading

Decided instead of doing 4-song opener and 1-song offertory to break it down to have a two lengthy sets. One 3-song set and 2-song set, with a diff worship leader leading each set. I think this is a creative experiment to have multiple worship leaders in one service but in away that isn’t to jarring for the congregation. I’ll report back how it goes!

Wish us luck! We get the privilege of leading people into the radiance of the Son.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

-Hebrews 1:1-3


One thought on “Worship Log: Mama Mia! That Hymn is a Spicy Meetah-boll.

  1. i have to say i’m w/ you there on the hymnal arrangements, and the food comparisons are terrific.

    lol, time, space, and cogency.

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