My husband and I once attended Mass at a church that had the most gorgeous pipe organ. We were all set to enjoy some fine sacred music, but the hymns – or should I say pop songs? — were accompanied by the tawdry tinkling of a piano.
Pianos are fine in secular settings, but when it comes to church, give me the majestic tones of the organ any day. As for guitars and tambourines, they’re just dandy at rock concerts, but using them at church is like wearing tattered jeans to a big meeting with the boss.
People go to church to worship God, and the instruments and lyrics should reflect this goal.
In “Holy God We Praise Thy Name!” the words emphasize God’s everlasting power. The images in “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” remind us of divine compassion.
Unfortunately, these hymns are giving way to folksy, feel-good songs with lyrics that often shine the spotlight on people, rather than God.
One particularly heinous song has the congregation proclaiming, “We are the light of the world,” even though this biblical description applies to Christ. The lyrics of “We Are Called” are liberally peppered with self-congratulatory references to the people in the pews.
In my book, bad church music is a sin. It can annoy people and make them angry, which is never a good thing. It also drives some people to avoid Sunday services altogether.
Imagine that are you rather new to this topic of liturgical music, meaning that you are inclined to speak bluntly and naively. You are trying to find a parish that provides liturgy that takes you out of the every day. You hold the view that dignity, decorum, and settled truth should be the main features of what you experience at Mass. Then you get clobbered by reality. In this case, you might write something like the following, which appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: