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Worship Songs and Theology

The Baptist Standard recently wrote a short piece about the ways in which theology shapes and is shaped by music within a congregation. Terry York, professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, is quoted as saying

I don’t know if there are any biblical concepts that are not singable, but there are some that we don’t like to sing. We don’t like laments. We don’t want to sing slow and sad in a minor key… It’s fun to sing praise and testimony of how God is at work in our lives. We also need to sing laments, or the cork will pop somewhere.

In what ways do congregations protect their congregants by avoiding discussing difficult topics or singing sad songs? What sort of a culture is created when the only discussion is positive?

To examine one outcome of your religious community’s culture is to examine the types of music that are used. Using archival document analysis, look through the last year’s chosen hymns or songs. What do you notice? Are some commonly used? What do those songs say about your congregation? What sorts of tone, as shown in major or minor keys for example, are regularly used? In what ways does this impact the feel of worship?

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org