Here's a quick, one problem quiz for you:
Name two different pieces of music that I have played during communion at a worship service any Sunday in the past 18 months.
Can you name anything other than "Blowin' in the Wind"? And that, my friends, is a primary reason that I think it was a great addition to this past Sunday's worship: it was memorable. It made people talk. (In fact, some people who came to second service had already heard about it.) Now, I'm not saying that church musicians should be controversial simply for the sake of controversy and conversation, but it can be exciting to see people actually discussing the music, rather than blithely ignoring it.
Many mega-churches have gone to the extreme of contemporary music, having no pipe organs at all in place of a praise band, for instance. Rick Warren famously said that people don't listen to classical organ music in their home (or on their iPods), so why should they have to do so when they come to church? I have three responses to such a critique. First, the unique nature of the language and music of church is what sets it apart as a santuary for our community. Second, some of the music people don't listen to is among the greatest ever composed (just as some of the books we don't read are the truly great classics), and we have a responsibility to aid their propagation. Finally, we can maintain our traditions while also being flexible and welcoming new music, technology, language, and ideas - the most promising trend in church music is toward "blended" worship.
Plus, I do believe that philosophers, artists, composers, and musicians continue to grapple with the same driving questions about the human condition that the Bible raises. In this particular instance, Bob Dylan's answer "in the wind" is not that different from the ongoing search of the book of Ecclesiastes.
I hope you enjoyed the musical change of pace, and whether you did or you didn't, I'd love to hear from you any week!