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Dear Friends

I have always loved singing. At primary and secondary school I sang in the choirs. The content of our songs was largely secular music. I also remember singing heartily in church and Sunday School.

 

Music has always been an important part of Christian worship, a practice inherited from the Jewish faith. St Paul urges the Christians of Ephesus to, ‘sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among your selves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts’. (Ephesians 5.19)


‘He that sings prays twice’ is a saying often attributed to St Augustine. Singing corporately joins a crowd together in common purpose. Singing, can help us to memorise wordsand with that, the meaning sink in. When the words of songs are full of hatred, these cannot be prayer. The Nazis, Soviets, Maoists and many other evil regimes used (and use) corporate singing to help spread and internalise their message. In our own society, football songs and chants can be used to evoke hatred,sometimes racism,rather than respectful rivalry.

 

What St Augustine actually wrote was:‘he (and she) who sings praise not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing to/for.’ Augustine described the difference between singing for its own sake or some other cause, and singing praise to God. We might well enjoy singing, but it is only when we dedicate it to God that it becomes worship. Focussed on God as we sing, we can be ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’, as described by Charles Wesley.


Sometimes we might be embarrassed by singing, feeling that we ‘cannot sing’ and fearing our singing might put others off. We should never fear singing. By joining in, we encourage others and make it a truly corporate act, binding us together with God and each other. Musicians, like organists and Choirs have an important ministry and responsibility to help lead us in worship, to further enhance our worship of God.  Singing in worship is never to be a performance, not even for musicians,but always an offering to God. The technical demands of music can mean that musiciansmust concentrate on the music to fulfil their special contribution. The important thing for them, as for all of us, is intent.The purpose of Christian music is giving praise to God, who is the giver of all musical gifts, and wills us to usethe gift of music to glorify him.

‘It is a good thing … to sing praises to your name’ (Psalm 92v.1)
 

With love and prayers

James 


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