Why Calvinists Sing What They Sing

Especially now the restrictions are easing, many people are saying: “Can’t wait for Sunday.” Did you know that there is also a book with that name by Michael Walters? The back cover has some reviews, and a large heading which says: “A Silver Bullet for the Worship Wars.”

After reading Dr. Wes Bredenhof’s book Aiming to Please, I dove into this book with its intriguing title. There is some overlap between Aiming to Please, such as liturgy, music, and sacraments. However, there are also new topics in Walter’s book. For example, Walters comments on the acoustics of the sanctuary. While many (of our) church buildings are optimized for speaking voice, Walters points out that the sanctuary has multiple functions, including a space for singing and music. Therefore, the room should be acoustically designed for both speaking and singing. Bredenhof and Walters review the pulpit, but Walters sees it replaced by a “lectern” in modern churches. He comments:

“The presence of a pulpit communicates that it is the Word of God, not the communicator, that is most significant in preaching.” He continues to say that modern communicators often prefer to have no barrier between themselves and their audience. Yet, pastors would do well to let their congregations know why they use “the sacred desk.”

While Bredenhof comes from a singing tradition with a select number of songs that the congregation knows well, Walters comes from a different practice. “Hymn singing can be a stretch for many worshipers these days.” Having many songs for the congregation to sing – too many to be familiar with – his advice is: “It is better to know ten or twelve hymns well than thirty perfunctorily.” Perhaps something to keep in mind while we are adding more songs.

Worship often changes, and Worship Wars start because of a lack of knowledge and understanding. It is essential to know why we do what we do. I appreciate Chad Bird’s book “Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing.” I was imagining the content of a book “Why Calvinists Sing What They Sing.” But much what would be written has been written already – in Aiming to Please.

Posted on: May 27, 2021, by :