I go to a contemporary church service here in Chicago. You know the drill: worship is led by plaid-wearing guys in their twenties and their guitars, communion bread is homemade, people volunteer to run the slideshow during the sermon.
I really enjoy it, actually. The music is uplifting and engaging. Worship requires enough hands that even we non-musical folk can be involved. The communion bread is delicious. And yeah, one of the aforementioned guitar-playing plaid-bearers happens to be my boyfriend. 90% of the time, I love the contemporary style. It suits me and my generation and my relationship with God.
But sometimes… I miss the old school. Very specific things about the old school.
One of the songs we sang in worship today was an old favorite: “How can I keep from singing?” What a beautiful, beautiful song. The singer places total faith in God, clinging to him in spite of it all. And what greater celebration is there than this? What is greater than the joy of knowing you can depend on him, hold onto him, fall into him in face of any trial and trust that he will fill your heart with his light and his hope?
Pretty much nothing. Which is why we cannot keep from singing.
The tune is equally beautiful, and yet… we didn’t sing it today. We sang a new alternative tune. A different tune. And it felt weird.
I liked the new tune well enough, but as a tune in general, not as the tune to my beloved hymn. I was off-kilter the whole time, trying to match this unfamiliar set of notes with the lyrics I knew by heart.
And then they weren’t even the same lyrics anymore! They were new and different and certainly not the song I was promised by that title. I was suddenly in the position of fumbling through a new tune, mumbling new lyrics, and puzzling over why my darling song was now completely different.
I tried to sing along, I really did, but in the end, I wasn’t really singing my song the right way. I wasn’t worshipping, I was just trying to keep up!
Is it so wrong for me to miss the classics? Contemporary service is wonderful, and new songs are a gift, but can’t we still sing old favorites? Can we leave them the way they are, timeless and beautiful?
I hope so.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to this rock I’m clinging
since Christ is lord of heav’n and earth
how can I keep from singing?