Last week I had the opportunity to attend the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) national convention in Chicago, IL. Among the many interest sessions, round table discussions, and concerts, were a few events that focused on music in worship. On Thursday at noon I attended the music and worship roundtable discussion, which to my surprise was not so much a round table, but a hall full of professional church musicians from all over the country ready to discuss and debate the hot topic issues of leading church music.
The “speaker” was more a discussion facilitator who posed various polls and open ended questions to the audience. One thing I noticed right away from the comments was that I was definitely among the denominational minority. As this was a conference of professional choral directors, it makes sense that the majority of church musicians would be from “traditional” worship settings with choirs and organs, but I was surprised to be one of only a handful of “evangelicals” in the crowd of over 200 people.
After these polls of self-identification, we were asked to share about our own worship experiences. What are some points of celebration in the liturgy of your congregation? What are some points of tension or conflict? I was surprised to see the atmosphere of the room turn negative after the latter question was asked. It became obvious that many present at this conference were bitter or disenchanted with worship, likely due to the demographic of the american choral directors association and the changing face of christian worship.
But fortunately these negative comments turned around, and after the nay-sayers had their turn to share their opinions, the majority of the audience began to share stories of overcoming conflict through patience, perseverance, and flexibility. Many stories involved people who were hired at churches as worship leaders that were not their “home” denomination. Though they were uncomfortable and out of their element at first, these church musicians largely expressed positive experiences where through worshipping in a new way, they gained a greater understanding of what it means to truly worship, and a greater understanding of who God is.
Though – as my sociology teacher says – ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’, these stories nevertheless warmed my heart and made me realize that there is a lot of good that can come from differences in worship styles. I realize that we should rejoice these differences and count them as blessings.