Estonia became independent from the USSR through a Singing Revolution. Four years of people singing, united, standing ground against the Soviet tanks, and: they succeeded. In 1991 they became independent because of their singing. The Estonians finally reached freedom. (The documentary film “The Singing Revolution” was released in 2006.)
Hong Kong is singing today. We hear them unite in a religious song, making a statement for democracy and independence to China and the world. The videos are shared widely. Although viewers don’t know the people, they feel united with Hong Kong. And the people from Hong Kong, where ever in the world, are united with their country.
People also join in singing when they celebrate a victory. It brings them together; they feel strong and united. Thousands are united in singing in stadiums. Winning a sports game (or even just scoring a goal) makes fans feel powerful and together. Although most people don’t know each other, they are one in song.
The ‘Center for Congregational Song’ shares an interview that says: “Ultimately music, when done responsibly and respectfully, can be a cross-cultural bridge among diverse races, ethnicities, faiths, generations, etc. ” Music unites and crosses bridges where church organizations can’t.
Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove CA organized a Fall Festival of Faith (Oct 26, 2019) with the subtitle “Growing faith & connecting communities through music”. Where theological discussions are unable to connect people, music connects with feelings, without a doctrinal connection, without the connection of the heart.
Our last Synod acknowledged that seeking further unity with the URCNA is not desired, for valid reasons. At the same time, Synod asked the churches to start adding specifically songs from the URC songbook. A strategic (and political?) decision to “give expression to the unity that exists” between CanRC and URC churches through singing. Perhaps songs are crossing the cross-cultural bridge between the CanRC and URC. Or connecting CanRC with other North American churches.
Church unity through singing is also visible in the annual hymn-sing, organized by the Getty’s. Churches may have their doctrinal differences (e.g. differ on salvation) but unite in song. Canadian Reformed Churches unite with Congregationalists, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, United Churches, Anglicans, Pentecostals, and also again with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKv). Singing unites, breaks down walls, even church federation walls.
FOCUS OF SINGING
But, is it a foretaste of heaven when churches unite in song? I don’t think so. Songs of the church should not be a political statement or addressing emotions: it could easily blur the vision. Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who sing the same songs together” but “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11: 28). May that be our focus, and may the singing support this focus only.