Sure, they’ve been going on for centuries, but Dr. Paul Westermeyer of Luther Seminary says today’s church arguments over music have rarely been this mean-spirited – or this simple to solve (note the difference between simple and easy…).
Yes, liberating our congregations from the manipulative and emotion-based musical proclivities of the surrounding culture is our biggest challenge – but one that’s met by simply getting back to basics of helping the Church sing around Word, font and table.
Dr. Westermeyer unpacks this in a refreshing interview not only for church musicians, but all church leaders.
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Dr. Paul Westermeyer says the biggest challenge to today’s church worship is capitulation to a culture that’s based on consumerism and greed – in which bigger is better, and growing my piece of the pie is Job #1. In this interview Dr. Paul tells us that church music is not a commodity but for the glory of God and the edification of humanity. Here are my notes:
Church Musicians and the Prophetic
The fact that they’re paid less, treated badly, and often summarily fired gives church musicians the privilege of the poor – and an ability to point the church back home, toward the Magnificat, and the ultimate provision of God.
Know Your Context
Leading worship means listening to those around us – like clergy, church musicians need to go to coffee hour, potlucks, and the important places the community gathers in order to be in touch with the people they’ve come to serve.
Two Strong Egos = One Great Team
The give and take between musician and clergy works best when both are strong individuals, not afraid to step on toes (in love), have an opinion, and stick up for a conviction. Iron sharpens iron.
About Dr. Paul Westermeyer
Paul Westermeyer came to Luther Seminary in 1990 to implement and direct the Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) progr,am which helps musicians in the church refine their craft and simultaneously study the theological foundations of their work. Students study music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and theology at Luther. A musician-theologian, Westermeyer majored in music at Elmhurst College, did his M.Div. at Lancaster Seminary, his M.S.M. at Union Theological Seminary in New York and his Ph.D. in church history at the University of Chicago. He served as choirmaster for congregations in Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and chaired the Music Department at Elmhurst College in Illinois. His book Te Deum: The Church and Music is an historical analysis of the church’s encounter with music from the Old Testament to the present. Other books include The Church Musician; With Tongues of Fire; Let Justice Sing: Hymnody and Justice; The Heart of the Matter: Church Music As Praise, Prayer, Presentation, Story, & Gift; Hymns for Lent; Let the People Sing: Hymn Tunes in Perspective; Rise, O Church: Reflections on the Church, Its Music and Empire; and Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship..