"It would be awesome if this band just ditched their set list and played Bowie's "Hunky Dory" instead."
That was my suggestion. I was standing in a crowd of thousands at the Mecca of indie music, the Pitchfork Festival. And frankly, it was lame. Bands on three separate stages had been playing since noon for hordes of unaffected hipsters. Without exception, the audience stood stiff, arms crossed, observing, critiquing, even snapping selfies, but not responding to the music, not even so much as bobbing a head or swaying side to side.
The bands were equally uninspired. No one smashed equipment or lit guitars on fire or made revolutionary political statements or even wavered one iota from their set list. They just did what they were expecting to do and what they were expected to do and in the end there was nothing to report to anyone who had heard the albums aside from a vapid, "I saw them at Pitchfork."
In the parlance of our time, the whole thing was pretty "meh."
It reminded me of music at church.
I grew up Pentecostal / Charismatic but I attend a (spirit-filled) Anglican Church now. The quality of musicianship in my present congregation is much higher than the worship bands I grew up with (and the Spirit really does show up), but the excellence of the music is so perfect that it sometimes comes off as closed to the possibility that something unexpected might happen when 700 additional people and, presumably the Spirit of God, are present. I get it though. There's a timeframe. There's a lot to do. We can't just throw the plan out the window. The folks for the next service will show up soon and the band will have to do it all again.
Maybe part of me knew this implicitly when recently I asked my wife if we could skip our plans for Sunday worship at our Church and go visit my Dad's small Charismatic church instead.
I had worshiped there for most of my life. We have suffered all of the worship band problems of a small church: a lack of skilled musicianship on one hand, and a congregation that is sometimes too involved (ask any worship leader you know how they feel about personal tambourines). But sometimes … sometimes it was electric. Sometimes the worship leader ditched the plan and the band miraculously followed his lead and a chorus of "We Exalt Thee" transformed from a formal routine into the heart cry of the entire room.
It must have been a fifth Sunday when we visited Dad's church because the choir was on stage along with a full rock band. I cringed inside (see previous note regarding the talent pool of small churches). The worship was good but not the heaven-meeting-earth moment I had quietly hoped for. But then Annie stepped out of the choir and took center stage.
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