“I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you.” – Psalm 144:9
“If this were our church,” my copastor and I are fond of saying, “there would be more banjo.”
Instead, at the church we started almost a year and a half ago, we sing pop songs. Almost exclusively.
And not pop songs that mention God, or poppy-sounding Christian songs, or pop songs with every “baby” changed to “Jesus.” Just pop songs.
Rebecca and I imagined Wailin’ Jennys and Gillian Welch with liberal helpings of old-timey hymns in 4-part harmony. That’s our jam. But in the last month I’ve had to learn songs from V V Brown, Imagine Dragons, and Dua Lipa.
It’s what our folks – the ones who are here and the ones we want to welcome – sing well. Wholeheartedly and full-throatedly. And we decided that’s what worship music is supposed to be: the music we feel, the music that speaks to us and for us. At least at our church.
The psalmist’s new song turns out to be about deliverance from enemies, health and wholeness for his children, and a bumper crop. Nothing particularly pious. It’s just the ordinary stuff of life brought to God. And God brought into the fields, and fights, and fears of the everyday.
Which is how it feels when I’m out somewhere and I hear a real club banger and think, “I know this song! It was our offertory last month.” And it becomes my doxology there at the bar or in the grocery aisle.
God, teach me the songs that will bring all of me to all of you.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.