Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Growing up, my mom often said that the only truly important rule was this: No whining. She repeated it as a mantra, and it applied everywhere - at home, Scouting activities and trips, and her classroom. You could respectfully disagree, you could choose not to participate, you could even argue (in a civilized tone), but you could never, ever whine, because it was both irritating and ultimately unproductive.
I thought of my mom's mantra this Sunday when it was announced that we would be singing a new liturgy for the summer. (If you're attending Wednesday night services, you are even singing two different liturgies this summer.) I think it's a shame that for many people that prospect elicits groans, complaints, or even whining.
I always find it interesting when people object to change. After all, the modern world is supposed to be characterized by change, and for the most part change brings good things to our lives - the changes of marriage or birth, new inventions, new homes, new jobs - these are often joyous occasions in life. Unfortunately, these positive changes carry with them an implied negative - birth and death, the old technology that disappears, the old home or job left behind. The economist Joseph Schumpeter called it creative destruction. We celebrate the new but sometimes mourn the old. It's important to keep both costs and benefits in mind; give change a chance before you pre-judge it with a knee-jerk whine.
New liturgies are good for several reasons: They prevent stagnation and create musical interest. They provide an opportunity to expand our musical repertoire. They put long-time members on the same footing as visitors, which can help create empathy and a welcoming, helpful attitude toward newcomers. They renew our attention to the text and prevent rote recitation. Some people might argue that the music is more contemporary or even "better" (by which they often mean more to their liking or in line with their taste, and there's nothing wrong with that either).
So be open minded and give the music a try. Boldly sing a few wrong notes while you learn the tunes. I promise no one will point or laugh at you during church, and you may decide that you like the new sound. Provide your feedback and input anytime - comments, emails, or in person - just remember, no whining!