Excerpt from Isaiah 65:17-25
"For I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight."
Quinn G. Caldwell
Christians who believe in a God who longs for peace with justice; a God who sets the table for every person everywhere; a God who pours the waters of grace freely throughout the world—Christians who believe in a God like that often find themselves in a sort of double bind when it comes to worship music.
We can sing music that sounds nothing like what we listen to the rest of the week (hymns), accompanied by an instrument that we've never once encountered outside church (a pipe organ). Or we can have music that sounds like what we listen to in our daily lives—electric guitars, synthesizers, drums and the rest—but is full of theology that swings between uncomfortable and downright horrifying.
Rob Leveridge, one of the pastors at First United Church in Oak Park, IL, thinks this is a problem. Martin Luther adapted beer drinking songs and turned them into vehicles for his theology. Slaves in the American south set their new Christian faith to the sounds and rhythms of their homelands. And Rob is setting progressive theology to music that sounds like it's from this century. It's engaging, theologically progressive, and beautiful, and he's working on a whole album of it: "Dancing on the Mountain." To listen to some of the tracks, and learn how to support the project if you like it, click here.
Sometimes, you can have your faith and sing it, too.
God, for musicians in each generation who teach us to sing your praise in new ways, thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is Pastor and Teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC, in Syracuse, New York, and co-editor, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.