When There Is No Music, by Rev. Denise Bender

unmusical chairsDuring the recent Harvest Festival at one of my churches, we had the usual chili for lunch, skeleton hands made with disposable gloves (100 for $1.00 at the Dollar Store), bobbing for chocolate donuts, TP mummy wraps, and musical chairs with the top two winners going home with a cake! The only problem was that we had no music.

The adults watching the festivities were eager to help, but rather than sing, Pastor Betty invited everyone to clap along with her. When she stopped, they all stopped, and the children knew it was time to find a seat. Sometimes adults assume that children do not listen, but when it comes to something worth listening to, they are very attentive. So clapping was music to their little ears.

Psalm 100 proclaims, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” The clapping, laughter, chatting and even the grumpy “Oh, no’s” when a child did not get a seat made a cacophony of joyful noises.

Many congregations seem to focus on what their church is lacking. The decrease in attendance, baptisms, and memberships is a red flag to the denominations that are the institutional touchstones and authority on what counts as success.

One reason, from my perspective, may very well be the absence of joyful noise in congregations. They struggle to find the energy that comes from working in ministry together for the goal of making disciples for the transformation of the world.

There is a lack of clarity about what role church fills in today’s society, because it doesn’t always look like it did 50 years ago.

  • Worship is the time for excited Christians to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit so that as they leave they can take that joy and excitement with them into the secular world.
  • The delight of being in a faith community spans a great many aspects of being in community; the common mission field is the world starting just outside the doors of the church building.
  • Christian education is more than Sunday school; it is working together to teach the faith through lives lived in communion with the Holy Spirit.

Church does community. Church does education for all ages. Church is not the building, it is the building up of believers so they can take their music into the world.

Music in the world is heard through the heartbeats of those who are fed, those who are clothed, those who are protected from illness, poverty, and shame. Music rings through the voices of children who are safe and fed and allowed to be children in a world that can cause them to grow up too quickly. Our churches need to make their own music that is joyful, delightful, and healing: music that can be heard far beyond the walls of the building.

And if there is no music…

Clap!

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