It's a truism that Christianity lives and breathes as much
(or more) through music as through preaching or teaching, to say nothing of
dense theological texts--so Christian preachers and teachers should be on the
lookout for ways to incorporate the great hymns of the tradition into our
sermons, lessons and other theological work.
A majority of congregations in the United States average fewer than 100 in attendance. While some congregations manage to employ a full-time minister with the requisite M.Div. and standing in their denomination, many others can't afford this desirable arrangement.
Most churches have the equivalent of Eat at Joe's signs, advertising religious services so that people will stop, come in and taste what is good. The signs are imperative; they command us to eat here and not there.
As a church musician, I've been known to program what I thought were familiar Charles Wesley hymns, only to find my non-Methodist song leaders tongue-tied by the ambitious melodies and all-doctrine-all-the-time words. When I have a week off and visit an Episcopal church, the Hymnal 1982's Arthur Sullivan tunes make my mind wander to operetta.
Three centuries ago in the village of Olney, England, a new parish priest came to town. The townsfolk flocked to hear him, fascinated with his vibrant, personal style of preaching and his checkered past as a slave trader.
On the night of the shootings in Dallas that killed five police officers, Michael Waters and Omar Suleiman had known each other barely a year. Waters is pastor of the Joy Tabernacle AME Church; Suleiman is a nationally known Muslim scholar and one of two imams at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center. Both were at the rally in Dallas protesting the police shootings of black men when a gunman started shooting. Together with some parishioners, the two found refuge at Waters’s church, where they spent the night praying and wondering what they could do to stop violence rather than just react to it. They agreed on one thing: though of different religions and ethnicities, they are brothers (Washington Post, July 10).