You may remember that Doug Pagitt was one of the plenary presenters at Luther Seminary’s Celebration of Biblical Preaching. He was a provocative, engaging speaker, with a take on preaching and leadership that is definitely worth considering. Plus, he had that great quote about letting babies cry in church.
But he also said something that bugs me more the more I think about it. “People want to do the important things,” he said. “They don’t want to stand up and sing a hymn. They want to preach!”
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I agree that people want to do the important things: in church, at home, at work, at school, at play. And maybe they do want to preach–at least some of them–although I suspect what many would rather do is give their testimonies and share their faith with others. By all means, we should facilitate this in worship so that it’s easier for folks to do it outside of worship, too.
The part of Pagitt’s comment that irks me is the part where he says people “don’t want to stand up and sing a hymn.” Now, I know that for some people, this is true. We are not all singers, just as we are not all preachers or bakers or candlestick makers.
But singing is one of the important things. The very day that Doug Pagitt dismissed it, I stood with several hundred worshipers in the same seminary chapel and felt how much singing matters. How it can lift up, console, inspire, delight, unite, and teach. (Pro Tip: through singing, Zoe has learned to wait her turn, to take a nap, to not bite her friends, and to have a party in her tummy.)
One of the great things about church–and since I’m a pastor, I obviously believe there are many–is that it is one of the few places where people sing together. It is one of the few places where we do stand up together (or sit down, if we are in the Upper Midwest) and sing for joy (or for sorrow, or hope, or mercy, or gratitude, for example). And that is important. That matters.