Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Place for Appearing

I am currently reading Mary McLintock Fulkerson's remarkable book Places of Redemption: Theology for a Worldly Church. At the heart of the book is Fulkerson's participant-observer study of Good Samaritan, a small Methodist congregation in North Carolina. This congregation was so remarkable because it was not only multiracial (equal parts African,White, African American) but it welcomed people with severe disabilities from local group homes. This book is not about congregational singing, but it is about how we think about church theologically. This is a serious academic book and the descriptions of the congregation are framed in plenty of post-modern theory. It is an inspiring and challenging work and has moved me to tears a number of times already. Fulkerson argues that theologies that matter originate at the scene of a wound (13). The wound she addresses in her book is the obliviousness of the dominant society to the other. Church worship should be the place where these others (black, poor, immigrant, disabled) are no longer invisible.Church should be the place for appearing (123). For this to happen "social habituations of participants" must be challenged.
As I am reading the book a (considerable) part of my brain is thinking about the music for this coming Sunday. We are continuing with the mic-less experiment and Libby, Jen and Allie will be out of town leaving Red Team depleted. For our congregational singing to really be a sounding image of the unified church then we need to identify and consider including those bodies which are normally marginalized.

For some time now I have been thinking about the place of children in our worship service. This concern has a twin focus:
  1. How to welcome children into the whole experience of worship.
  2. How to introduce children to the tradition of Church hymnody and congregational singing.
I am feeling my way into this. One of my inclinations/instincts is to explore not having such a clear boundary between children's singing and adult's singing. I'd like to figure out how to involve people of all ages (particularly children) in the new unplugged Red Team. This will obviously require repetition so that the children of the congregation can feel confident singing some of the hymns/songs. Which brings me on to the idea of bringing children into the tradition. Six months ago I wrote a note on facebook:
Now I have kids, I started wondering which hymns would I like them to learn as they grow up? Which hymns are important to their tradition (English speaking Protestant)? We will, of course, include a range of songs/hymns old and new and from around the world, but which songs are their theological heritage? Which hymns have meant a lot to the saints that have gone before?
The idea is that we will come up with a list and we will put those in constant rotation. But which hymns?
Please post your answer to this question -- which hymns do you consider essential? 
 The responses were very interesting and demonstrated to me that there are some great hymns of the church which people feel are very important. All of this is to explain why I am going home to teach my kids the 1650 Scottish Psalter's setting of the 23 Psalm to the tune Crimond so they can sing it with (and help lead) the whole congregation on Sunday.


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