Monday, February 28, 2011
The Church of the Redeemer, Charismatic Renewal, and Music in Anglican Worship
By Robin G. Jordan
Three similar but unrelated stories caught my attention this past week. The first story was that of a Church of England parish church that is facing demolition. The second story was that of a San Diego Episcopal church that is closing its doors, as the diocese can no longer subsidize the church. The third story was that of the congregation of the historic Church of the Redeemer in Houston that had been forced to abandon their building due to the condition of the building. The building needed extensive repairs and the congregation could not afford them. Money that they might have been used to repair the building, they had channeled into the church’s ministries. Years of neglecting the building had caught up with them. They also could not afford the salary of a full time priest. The congregation had dwindled in size from the heydays of charismatic renewal in the Episcopal Church. The church is located in a poorer neighborhood of Houston.
One reader’s comment in response to the article was that the Church of the Redeemer was responsible for the introduction of Pentecostal worship, guitars and drums, and praise choruses in the Episcopal Church. This comment was a rather inaccurate oversimplification of the role that Redeemer played in the changes in worship in the Anglican Church in and outside of North America and the changes that have occurred in Anglican worship.
The type of worship seen at Redeemer in the early 1970s exhibited a number of significant differences from the type of worship seen in Pentecostal churches in the same period. The ubiquitous electric guitar and drum kit of today’s bands comes not from the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s - 1970s but the Praise and Worship movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Worship in the charismatic Episcopal churches in the early 1970s did not suffer from the rawness of worship in Pentecostal churches. It was also Eucharistic. One of the things that visitors to charismatic churches immediately noticed was the quality of the congregational singing. Among the developments that accompanied renewal in the Episcopal Church was the use and enjoyment of the folk arts in Christian worship and teaching. This included mime, storytelling, dance, poetry, drama, and the graphic arts.
The Fisher Folk teams of the Community of Celebration might have used percussion in their music but it was the percussion of chimes, conga drums, castanets, claves, finger cymbals, glockenspiel, piano, stacked bells, tambourine, timpani, and triangle. The guitars that the teams used were acoustic, and might be augmented by wind instruments and other stringed instruments.
The Fisher Folk teams were not modeled on the rock band like today’s bands. They were a small ensemble of instrumentalists and vocalists.
The music the Community of Celebration used in worship included traditional hymns and classical anthems as well as simple hymns and songs, which were called “celebration songs.” This music included praise choruses but it was not exclusively choruses. These choruses were also different from today’s praise and worship songs. They were more accessible or easier to sing. They were written to help release people of all ages into praise. A lot of contemporary music is performance music, written for bands and their vocalists.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the praise and worship songs of Hosanna’s Integrity, Maranatha! Music, Mercy, and Word began to displace the celebration songs of Celebration Services and Thank You Music. The music of the Third Wave movement and the Vineyard churches also became a major influence.
I was involved in the music ministry of my church during this period. I collaborated with the music director in planning the music used in our services. As well as selecting hymns, songs, and service music with the music director and determining how they would be used in the services, I found new music, obtained copyright permission to reprint it, and taught it to the congregation.
I attended a Come Celebrate weekend, a Community of Celebration workshop on the integration of contemporary music into traditional music, during the late 1980s – early 1990s. I also had correspondence with one of the leaders of the Fisher Folk team that conducted the workshop, seeking his advice upon the use of music in the liturgy.
We used celebration songs from the Sounds of Living Water collections, Songs for Celebration—Church Hymnal Series IV, and Come Celebrate. We also used hymns and songs from Songs for Liturgy, More Hymns and Spiritual Songs, and a number of Roman Catholic collections. A number of the hymns and songs that we used, for example, “Gift of Finest Wheat,” “I Danced in the Morning,” “One Bread, One Body,” and “The Servant Song,” eventually were incorporated into Anglican hymnals around the world.
In the late 1980s – early 1990s Episcopalians who listened to Christian radio and bought cassettes at Christian books stores were hearing more and more music from the Praise and Worship movement. A number of newcomers to the church began to request that we make use of contemporary Christian music and praise and worship songs as well as the hymns and songs that we were using. During this period drum machines as well as drum kits began to make their appearance in Episcopal churches along with electric guitars.
Robert Webber and the Worship Renewal movement began to influence Episcopal churches in the late 1980s – early 1990s. Webber championed “blended worship,” the use of a mix of contemporary and traditional music in worship, and the revival of a number of worship practices from the early Medieval Church and later. Star Song published the highly influential The Complete Library of Christian Worship, which Webber edited. The music associated with blended worship has became so widely used in the newer hymnals that it is now referred to as the “new traditional” music.
Another trend that manifest itself during the same period was the use of hymns and songs from the World Church in worship—what is known as “global music.” George Mimms, who had been the music director of Redeemer, was one of its champions. A number of denominations and music publishers produced collections of this music. It also incorporated into the newer hymnals.
The style of worship seen in Anglican and Episcopal churches in North America that is sometimes characterized as “charismatic” is more accurately characterized as “contemporary.” It shows the influence of a number of different movements that have affected these churches in recent years. They include the Praise and Worship movement and the Seeker Service/Seeker-Friendly Service movement. This style of worship can be seen in churches that are not charismatic in theology as well as those that are.
Clapping, uplifted or outstretched hands, and moving to the beat of the music are widespread practice in North America and are not limited to charismatic or Pentecostal churches. Non-charismatic churches have adopted the charismatic practice of praying in concert. The cranked-up music with its very loud volume and strong pulsing beat reflect the influence of popular secular music and the younger generations.
The marks of real charismatic worship—the manifestations of the Holy Spirit such as prophecies in tongues with interpretation, prophecies in the vernacular, and singing in the Spirit—are found in only a few charismatic churches.
It must be noted that the charismatic community that was centered on the Redeemer and the Communion of Celebration saw a place for the organ, the organ voluntary, the traditional hymn, and the classic anthem in worship. They sought to enrich the corporate worship of the local church with the music of other musical instruments, other musical forms, and a wide range of musical styles. They recognized that the music in the corporate worship of the local church properly belonged to the whole congregation and not just to the choir. At the same time they were very cognizant of the need for a worship leadership group—for, to quote Betty Pulkingham, “a group of people thoroughly committed to the corporate worship life of that body of people,” and carrying “a vision of serving the worshipping needs of the entire congregation.”
Whatever we may think of the theology of the charismatic renewal movement, it did infuse the corporate worship of a number of churches with new life. People put their hearts into the hymns, songs, readings, and prayers. They had a sense of God’s presence in their midst and this sense made a real difference to the way they worshiped. Worship in the Episcopal Church took on a vibrancy that had been lacking in the worship of that Church.
The abandonment of a church building is always a painful experience even when a congregation is prepared for the move. The congregation of Redeemer will be sharing a building and a pastor with an Evangelical Lutheran church. The move could mean new life for the congregation or its demise. With the move a chapter in the history of the Episcopal Church closes. I wanted to set the record straight on the contribution of the Church of the Redeemer and the Community of Celebration to the worship of the Episcopal Church and other Anglican Churches in North America and around the world.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:15 PM