I’m currently visiting my in-laws for a few weeks. I attended their ward on Sunday and once again was shocked at the difference in the singing there compared to my home ward. Why don’t members sing the hymns in Sacrament Meeting here?
For fear I offend someone, I won’t say what ward it is. In fact, I’ve run into this same phenomenon elsewhere, including the feeling that I need to get up, go to the pulpit and make the congregation sing the hymn again until they actually put some effort into it. For me, its a bit frustrating.
Its almost like we have developed a cultural belief that loud is irreverent or that singing out-of-tune when you can’t do better is somehow disrespectful.
The truth is exactly the opposite. It is irreverent to sing “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” like you don’t mean it, like you don’t want the world to know! It is wrong to accept the responsibility of being a member of the Church and then refuse to sing “Called to Serve!” You must sing loudly following the stirring beginning chords of “God of Our Fathers Known of Old.” And how can we fail to see they irony in singing “Then wake up and do something more” like we are asleep? Timidity is not reverence!
[I should mention that I am somewhat spoiled in this regard. My home ward has excellent singing, from a wide variety of participants, who sing despite the obviously trained professionals in our congregation who generally intimidate most of us.]
It was only after Sunday’s meeting that I read Jana Reiss’ post, Why Are Mormon Church Meetings So Dull? which made me think that my observation is perhaps just a symptom of the problem. She apparently sees the same thing I do, since she says, speaking of music in Mormon services, “For a supposedly joyful people, Mormons are missing a crucial element of joy that should accompany our worship services.”
I agree. I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers, of course, but I do think that vigorous participation is contagious. Vigor is what I see lacking in the singing in my in-law’s ward. The congregation knows a song must be sung, and so they put in the minimum effort to get it out of the way. Instead of this attitude, we need to remember that putting in the minimum is NOT worship. It is going through the motions. It is the “luke-warm” that the Book of Mormon speaks of.
I don’t think fixing the issue Jana sees requires any radical restructuring of how we worship and how we structure our meetings (although I do think an occasional change from the normal structure can help, simply because of the novelty). I am certain that any improvement will come through members improving how they participate — perhaps by adding vigor to how they participate in worship. The change of attitude would make a big difference.
And personally, I’d appreciate it if we could start with the singing.