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.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Be that as it may, the Charismatic movement is focused more on experience than solid doctrinal and expositional teaching. That is the malaise of Evangelicalism in general and is proving to be the downfall of Presbyterian denominations today. The PCA is no longer distinctly Presbyterian but is now increasingly broadly evangelical. This is just a short step from rejecting the Westminster Standards altogether.

While the modern church growth movement can provide instant growth, as you point out in your article the results are temporary. It's rather like eating sweets all the time rather than eating a balanced meal. Sweets lead to obesity, diabetes, and physical deterioration. I think the metaphor applies equally to congregations and denominations.

The real foundation of a healthy church is solid biblical teaching, now how emotional the worship is or how one "feels". I found such worship ultimately superficial. What should be the center of worship is the sermon, not the music or even the sacraments. Of the three elements even the sacrament should hold a higher place than the music since Word and Sacrament are never to be separated. Both "preach" the Gospel to us and nourish our souls.

Sincerely in Christ,


Charlie J. Ray said...

I spent 10 years in the Charismatic renewal in the mid 1980s to about 1995.


Robin G. Jordan said...


I agree that the charismatic movement suffers from a number of weaknesses and shortcomings. People become obsessed with pursuing "signs and wonders." They are susceptible to false teachers and false teaching. At the same time a study of revivals in the history of the Church has shown that that has always been the case with reawakenings of religious fervor. In the 1970s and 1980s David Watson and other charismatic leaders warned people of the dangers but they were not heeded.

1 Peter tell us that we called out darkness into God's marvelous light to proclaim God's excellencies or praises. We do this in a number of ways. Music, if you mean song, is one of them.

Song can also be used to proclaim the good news. In the Episcopal Church even in the 1980s it is the readings and the hymns and other songs of worship that are "preaching" the gospel, not the priest in the pulpit.

The center, or focal point, of our worship is God, not the sermon or the sacraments. He is the One upon whom our worship should focus.

Hymns, Psalms, canticles, and other forms of worship songs are a form of prayer in song. And prayer is a means of grace. They can also be a form of encouragement, exhortation, and teaching. As I have previously noted, they can be a form of proclamation.

God uses song to prepare the heart as a farmer prepares a field for planting. God uses song to plant the seed. He uses song to water the seed.

A worshiper may go home after the service and not remember one word of the sermon. But he goes home singing a verse or two of the final hymn or other song and sings it all week long. The verse comes from Scripture or paraphrases Scripture and the Word in the song sinks deeply into the heart of the worshiper.

I would not underestimate the place of song in worship.

George Mims said...

During our time at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer the parish was a Full Gospel Ministry. I was there from 1969 until 1983 and experienced this Full Gospel experience first hand not by word of mouth or writ. Our life was structured in the Word through daily Bible study that was mostly of the exegetic/expository type; i.e. not just sharing. Each weekday a sharing period though did occur in which we shared what God's Word was saying to our own person, (no one else's), seeing often how the Lord's work in our individual lives had ties to the rest of the Body of Christ finding that we were not alone in our pilgrimage. Then each morning concluded with the Holy Eucharist informally celebrated with an extended time for prayer by all gathered around the Altar and the liturgy coupled with adoration/praise through hymnody, psalms and spiritual songs. After this we had lunch on the grounds and went to minister either within the parish and community it served or through a work we felt “called to” in the secular arena. The personal time spent in contemplative prayer as well as immersion in Scripture was major and productive. The teaching, intense especially in the early days but was always profound and centered in the Incarnation, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, Christ among us, the Hope of Glory. We lived in Christian Community. Many significant Bible teachers from literally from around the world came through and ministered at our services.

My wife and I along with our children invited some sixty persons to live in our home during the course of our time there. The most people we ever had live with us in one year were twenty but on the average we had some eight to fifteen persons in our home. We shared duties as a family for the household chores and finances, sharing in the Word by twos and together once a week, and through all in hindsight we know now that we bonded for life through this spiritual journey. The number of stories of persons coming into community and being nurtured to wholeness, body, soul and spirit, was so encouraging and worship in the corporate gatherings was the outcome of the Lord’s work in each person’s personal life in Christ.

Some may reflect or have thoughts that the Charismatic Movement or any other great Awakening hasn't served the whole state of Christ's Church well either now or in history. I would answer, sit down with those whose lives have been transformed by the living Word of God and see and hear for your self. Some might say healings don't really occur anymore and that’s a manifestation only in Bible Days. Not true: we've had profound physical healing in our family and it was begun clearly through prayer. Some say that ritual is a "duty" and doesn’t involve feelings or have to necessarily be from the heart. I've seen that sort of activity and chose to move way from that kind of experience. Some mistrust spontaneity fearing something "wrong" may creep in. I find worship without spontaneity is simply totally predictable and mostly nothing more that a rote style of experience, not necessarily bad but truly not breathing life into the Christian and evangelizing to those who’ve never known the Lord.

You know the best laid plans often fall short of the goal. One of the neatest things about the Church of the Redeemer experience was that ANYONE could begin a song of praise and worship in the liturgy and not necessarily at the prescribed times. My job at the piano or organ was to join that person in the key that they began the song and with out embarrassing the person or disrupting the flow of worship bring that song to a place of response and beauty right matter how well or poorly the song surfaced during worship. I didn’t have to be taught that kind of’s simply the norm of Christians loving Christians and assisting each other in praising and worship Jesus in our midst!

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to this column.
George Ellis Mims, D. M.

KiwiBobUAE said...

Robin: You have done Anglican worship a good service by your distinction of creative eucharistic music coming from Redeemer. Betty Pulkingham alone wrote King of Glory, Melchizedek, El Shaddai and Freedom mass settings.

As one who was privileged to sing in the choir in the 70s, then marry Fisherfolk singer Diane Davis, I'm a living witness to the evolution of the rich music which can still be bought from the Community of Celebration's on-line

I as also the Junior Warden at Redeemer after my career brought us back in 2005, so faced the reality of physical decay e.g. spalled concrete and rusted HVAC.

Interestingly, your blog post was published the very weekend of the final weekend at Redeemer. I could not be there, so instead built an archive website of photos, music and memories named

Bob Andrew, now living in Dubai

R. Eric Sawyer said...

Robin, I appreciate your analysis, I think it very good.
I was also at Redeemer, from the late 70’s until the mid 90’s. Most of what I learned about thoughtful, purposeful liturgy that engages the mind in worship, along with our other attributes, began with George Mims, posting above. I have realized that the almost ecstatic heights I sometimes feel at the simple acclamation of the Nicene began with a setting in one of Ms. Pulkingham’s Masses. But I think there is another characteristic to the music, almost lost, that was a profound statement and “Lab section” of our ecclesiology; and that is the experience of the Body making music, fully realized harmonies included, from all eras of the church for which music is readily available.

I’ve written a fuller description of the idea here,

Interestingly, I have been pondering an idea, that I think likely true, but beyond my musical training – that times of great “renewal” or “revival” of Christian faith correlate pretty well with music coming down from the choir of trained musicians and dwelling within the congregation and the home gathering. It was certainly true at Redeemer, I believe it fits pretty well with the Wesleyan movements, and (I have been told) with music before and during the English reformation. If as true as I suspect, it would be an interesting thread to flesh out. (A nice doctoral project for someone, if not already done!).

As for Mr. Ray’s comments, I agree with him, at least in part. I, too, developed a tendency to evaluate my Sunday morning on the basis of the intensity of my own experience of God, as if it were about ME. Took me a while to get over that, and conscious pre-service prayer that God would assist me to worship Him as He deserved, because of His merit; if He chose to warm my heart, or allow me to see something of His glory during that worship, that to deserves my thanks, but it is hardly the point. “Let me praise you because you are worthy, regardless of my emotions.” I think this tendency may be the temptation natural to fully engaged worship. But that of course does not mean it is to be avoided!

Everything that reveals our Lord can be mistaken for Him, and the more accurate the image, the greater the temptation to idolize it. This is true whether the mirror held up is excellent liturgy (of whatever style) excellent theology, even – perhaps especially – in that ultimate imago dei, an excellent man.
But may God protect us from the opposite error; that of rejecting good and excellent things that show us our Lord in the most clear manor, lest we be tempted to idolize them!

Robin G. Jordan said...


Betty Pulkingham in Sing God a Simple Song: Exploring Music in Worship for the Eighties makes the same observation. There is certainly ample evidence to support its validity--for example, the popularity of metrical psalm singing in the opening years of the reign of Elizabeth I. Hugh crowds would gather at St. Paul's Cross to sing metrical psalms for hours at a time. What I see happening in churches at the present time is a swing away from the song of the people to the song of the performer. The volume of sound systems are turned up to the point where the members of the congregation cannot hear themselves sing. This is deliberate. The rationale is that they do not want to hear themselves because they then might negatively compare their singing with that of the vocalist on the platform. Pumping up the volume spares them the possibility of such embarassment and enables them to "feel" the beat. Unfortunately the whole biblical idea of singing with one voice is lost. The members of the congregation do not sing together. They sing along with the vocalist. Or they do not sing at all. This kind of thinking not only discourages congregational singing but also keeps folks from discovering that they can sing. It sets too high a standard. You must be a professional or semi-professional vocalist to sing.