Monday, May 27, 2013

Secular gospel singing

On Friday night, my friend Esther and I went to a gospel singing workshop run by Tony Backhouse. It was great. There were 100 of us and we basically just stood around and sang in 4 part harmonies for 2 hours. It was a buzz. Tony taught us a couple of simple African American Songs (we did this arrangement of This Heart Of Mine.) Then we had a free improvisation session where we had to close our eyes, listen to eachother and improvise on a repeated (spiritual sounding) line. (I think we would have sung that line for 10 or 15 minutes.) Then we learned a South American 'Hallelujah' song.

It was inspiring and moving and good fun. Everyone got really into it. It was just like being in a pentecostal church. But with one difference. No one claimed to believe a word of what they were singing. Everyone sung 'The Lord done change this heart of mine!' with passion and conviction, but possibly only Esther and I believed it.

It made us reflect on a few things.

1. Group singing is a buzz. It's a great gift from God. It gets the endorphins pumping. It's an emotional rush. It bonds a group of people together.

2. A good leader gives everyone confidence to sing their hearts out. But it's not just about singing skill - it's about leadership. You need to draw everyone in, teach them, make them feel secure and encourage them with your voice and body language. We need to pray for people who can do that in church.

3. Singing is not a particularly christian thing. Anyone can have a 'spiritual' moment while singing. Except it's not a 'spiritual' moment. It's a natural thing.

4. Passionate singing in church isn't necessarily a sign of any great spirituality. If a group of non church people can sing gospel sings like we heard the other night, singing well is clearly not about faith.

5. It's easier to get into a song when you sing it 20 or 25 times in a row.



  1. Good thoughts.. although Reformed Evangelical's won't like implementing #5 into sunday services :p

    On the one hand, I agree with #3 - on the other.. I think like all creativity, that 'natural' moment of singing is designed to point us the creator. There is something 'Christian' about singing, in the sense that we, as Christians, are called to do it.

  2. On #3, we are all spiritual beings. We were created to have a spiritual relationship with our creator, of course sin has mucked that all up, but being spiritual is supposed to be natural.

  3. #5 doesn't work for me at all. It'll have me out the back door, running far, far away - just makes me sick to death of that song, not "into" it. It's probably why I have an antipathy towards most Hillsong stuff and certain hymns.