Reflection – Music and worship
‘Frequently, we grasp the importance of music when we are deprived of it’ writes James White in his Introduction to Christian Worship. He wrote this book in 1980; it has taken 40 years for us to fully comprehend the significance of this statement. While some services, such as Wednesday morning Holy Communion at Holy Cross, and Good Friday services traditionally do not include music, singing and musical accompaniment on Sundays is very much part of the whole order and rhythm of our worship.
Any choir knows that Augustine said ‘he who sings prays twice’. Music is a far more expressive medium than ordinary speech, it conveys a greater intensity of feeling. Think of how different it is listening to a choir singing Psalm 23, and hearing it read out.
Of course it is not just indoors that we can appreciate the difference music makes. Just listen to the fabulous music from the movies, such as Lord of the Rings, or The Sound of Music. You can visualise those mountains, sense their depths and their heights. In Oliver, the song bursting forth: ‘Who will buy this wonderful morning?’ conveys such joy and appreciation of a fresh new day. Have you ever seen musical fountains? Far more dramatic and uplifting with the music hurtling upwards on sparkling jets of water! Music and nature are wonderful companions. They make our hearts zing!
Some buildings lend themselves to that too; particularly old buildings with good acoustics. I have a great love for music in church, but it was not until I was going to Chelmsford cathedral every Thursday evening for lectures that I grasped the full beauty of choral evensong. I began the habit of going to Chelmsford early to miss the traffic, and, because inside the cathedral is the best place to be while waiting, I became drawn into the service. I changed my routine so that I was there before the start of evensong. No matter how busy I had been that day or that week, that beautiful worship drew me so close to God, the cathedral at evensong became my ‘thin space’, where I could sense the companionship of the Holy Spirit.
Naturally, I am now going to encourage you to do a bit of listening, your own reflection. I hope you are able to access some piece of music that you really enjoy; sit comfortably, close your eyes, let it flow over you; let this special little gift from God fill your senses and lift you up.
‘You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence’ Acts2:28
God bless you today.