The people of God are called to worship Him in song. Our lack of musical knowledge inhibits this activity. Therefore, we print the music in the bulletin in order to encourage part-singing, to more easily facilitate the learning of new music, and to increase musical literacy for the glory of God.
From the beginning of our life together as a church, we have printed the music for worship in the bulletin. The statement above was part of our bulletins for the first two months of our church. However, how exactly does singing in parts make a theological difference?
Worship serves to bind a group of people into a community. Utilizing music that can be sung in parts serves as a valuable tool to this end. Part-singing encourages a sense of belonging, community and reliance.
Part-singing encourages a sense of belonging by the very necessity of each of the harmonic parts being sung. The individual has the sense of being an integral component of something beyond just their voice part. There exists the sense of being needed.
Part-singing develops community by incorporating individual singing with the other parts. It creates an awareness of what the other members of the community are singing as well as building bonds between the parts. Reliance on one another contributes greatly to the sense of community.
Part-singing necessitates dependence upon the surrounding people as the individual parts are sung. This is apparent when we physically divide into voice parts and are surrounded by people singing the same notes or when we stand next to a different voice part and rely on one another for pitch, intonation, and entrances.
All voice parts are equally needed⎯just as all members of the body serve different but vital functions.
Yet another benefit of singing in parts is the opportunity to sing music suitable for one’s voice. For instance, the lack of bass lines disrupts the very harmonic foundation of music as well as eliminates the possibility of men singing a part intended for them. Choosing music with these elements often requires us to select music rooted in the past but yet accessible for the time and place in which God has placed us.
T.S. Eliot wrote in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” that someone who seeks to be contemporary must understand their place in history. If one does not understand that position, their work slips from the permanent to the novel. By definition, a true contemporary is also a traditionalist because he understands what went before. G.K. Chesterton refers to the idea that “Tradition is the democracy of the dead.” One must take into account the whole entirety of the Church--the Great Cloud of Witnesses, the invisible Church that stretches through the ages and is comprised of the called of God--when planning worship. Worship is an activity outside of time that is directed to a God beyond time.