A wistful Rod Dreher post about men singing together, and our experience of Christmas Eve Mass where the otherwise engaged congregation fell silent during the hymns, got me thinking this morning about singing in general, and how all of us do so little of it.
I love my congregation -- I really do -- but apart from the nursery-school-aged chitlins they're the most terrible, unenthusiastic singers in all of Lutherland. I just don't get it. Even on Reformation Sunday, a day when most Lutherans are belting out "A Mighty Fortress" with the vigor of Cubbie fans singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the seventh-inning stretch, our congo sounds like they're in painful recovery from major oral surgery. Sung liturgy? Fuggetaboutit, except for a few brave souls during Holden Evening Prayer at Advent and Lent.
My dad, who thanks to his arts-averse family could not read one note of music, was nonetheless a robust church singer with a good ear, constantly at the receiving end of entreaties to join the church choir. He always refused. "Someone's got to lead from the pews too," he'd argue.
Some who've noticed this non-singing phenomenon in the culture in general blame the entertainment industry and its professionalization of music; back before the days of easy access to musical recordings, families and friends used to sing together for amusement, and coworkers would sing to relieve the tedium of repetitive work; now we rely on our sound systems and radio to supply our music. Likewise, church musicianship -- and just so I don't get pounded for firing a shot in the worship wars, I think this is true in traditional worship modalities as well as contemporary ones -- has developed a kind of self-conscious, aspirational quality that makes people uncomfortable with the idea of providing their own untutored sung praises to God, instead of delegating that responsibility to a trained choir or "praise team."
I don't know what the solution, if any, is to this. But if you happen upon a traveling band of itinerent singers willing to seed the pews of a non-singing church, please send them my way.