It is always hard to know when to launch a first public worship service, and we went ahead without having some important pieces in place beforehand, such as a settled group of musicians to lead our congregational singing. We also have people of different backgrounds who know different church music, and some who know very little. For the first few weeks, we bumped along, happy to be together but struggling to sing together. That is, until last Sunday. God provided three musicians who come from different musical backgrounds, who came together with our diverse little congregation, and we sang together, not for the first time, but better than during our first weeks.
Yes, the quality was improved, but I’m mainly referring to the spirit of the singing. We felt the difference, no longer thinking about how well or poorly we were singing, but simply singing to the Lord together and moved by the content of our sung prayers (for that’s what congregational singing is). We also read Scripture more in unison and had a meaningful prayer time. I think I also preached better, because the time of congregational singing, praying, and reading prepared both the congregation and the preacher to hear God’s word. The time of greeting was more exuberant, and people stayed around a long time afterwards to enjoy each other, commenting about how wonderful it was to worship together.
In a timely way, a friend sent me this helpful article, which outlines some of the obstacles to robust congregational singing, ones that we are working to avoid from the beginning. The article is written in the negative, but it would be easy to turn each obstacle into its opposite and write a positive article called “Nine Reasons People Are Singing In Worship.”