Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Music Matters

My great great grandfather was Precentor in a Free Church of Scotland congregation in Dundee. He led unaccompanied psalm-singing - the only music allowed. He used a tuning fork to help him pitch the starting note. He would 'line out' the psalm, singing one line, then the congregation would repeat it and so on. No musical instruments were allowed and no hymns or songs, other than psalms.

When my grandmother told me about this when I was a child, I was astonished. I couldn't imagine church without hymns and musical instruments. I thought that no singing apart from the Psalms and no musical instruments was a long time ago and everything is different now. Indeed it is, but not everywhere.

A Free Church of Scotland minister in Glasgow has resigned because his denomination recently agreed (November 2010) by a very narrow majority to allow hymn singing and musical instruments in public worship for the first time. His congregation has grown numerically under his care, which I find interesting given the lack of variety in music. I don't think I'd cope well with only using Psalms, much as I love them. For me really good and varied music, with well-written hymns, songs and using musical instruments are things I really need for spiritual nourishment.

Oh if only I could discuss this with my great great grandfather. Would he approve of the changes in church music since his time? What sort of music feeds your soul?

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