Zing went the Strings

Singing with Grandma Marilyn

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.



Filed under Ministry Matters, Thankful Hearts

8 responses to “Zing went the Strings

  1. Claire

    well said Marg. I also believe that singing maters! Sometimes, singing is everything.

    PS- I love that Mom and Zoe match 🙂


    • For sure! I think one of the other places people sing together is in the Lux house (and the Cumings house, come to think of it!).

      I like the matching, too. They are a pretty cute pair!


  2. Jane

    You sit when you sing? Is that just an upper midwest Lutheran thing, then? Us Methodists in Ohio always stood…


    • Well, at some Lutheran churches in my part of Minnesota, we sit for the hymn of the day. One of my Milwaukee churches used to sit until the last verse of the gathering hymn. Sitting during the hymn of the day used to drive me crazy, but now that I am standing for the sermon, I kind of like it!


  3. Ben

    There’s something wonderful about singing together. For one thing, it’s a communal act, instead of an individual one. Far too rarely today are we truly asked to do something as one body with many members acting simultaneously. For a church, trying to lead its members through today’s rough waters, singing together can be a useful tool and metaphor. It really is okay to submit to something larger than oneself, even though for the rest of the week, we are asked to indulge in our selfish individuality. We may not all have “good” singing voices, but that’s beside the point.

    Also, for those of us who love harmony, hymns are really fun. Except for some of those really strange ones in the LBW…


    • Amen, Amen!

      I, too, love hymns (of course), and one of the big perks of my job is getting to choose the ones we sing on Sundays! I have been burned by my love of lyrics a few times–there are definitely some LBW hymns that are not singable, no matter how great the words are. But, so many great ones are in there, too. I am getting pretty excited for Advent hymns . . .


  4. Jenny Olsztynski

    I am all about the singing. We chose Trinity Methodist for the singing and the choir…the preaching is great, but great old hymns are what I love most!


  5. Pingback: Sweet Sound | Never Done It That Way Before

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