Once I was at a teacher’s conference with around 1000 people, about to sing the hymn WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS, when the power went off. You might assume this was a disaster. Yet we all sang, even though there were no projected words to follow. And what a difference it made! It forced you to think more about what you were singing, of how the words connected logically together, from one thought to another, from verse to verse, to see the whole gospel message being presented. It was an amazing exercise of where things go “wrong” to the glory of God.
Why am I recalling this unusual event?
Today I read over at CHONGS WORSHIP that their church is intentionally singing without projected or written words (though not all the time). Here is their story, which I must say is quite inspiring!
“Some of you know that at our church we’ve started a year-long project of memorising 10 hymns of the faith. I spent a few weeks getting the music and the hymn books together in preparation. We started our first one (In Christ Alone) at the beginning of March, and on Sunday (while I was worship leading), we sang the entire hymn without the projected words. At the back of my mind I wondered what proportion of the church had been actively trying to memorise each hymn, or if it would be of much benefit.
So I was really encouraged to get this feedback from someone at church (the person has asked to remain anonymous):
“I have to admit – I used to not like In Christ Alone that much. It had become monotonous for me. Well, I would like to let you know that memorising the whole song has brought about a remarkable change. For the first time, I no longer heard the tune, but visually saw the whole song. I can’t quite articulate what I mean, but it was as if I saw the song only in its various parts with the first and last verse being the most obvious. But by memorising the song, I finally saw the whole song and would visualise the song in my mind when singing it.
It made a big difference to the way I sang the song too, whereby I no longer heard the tune, but saw the whole gospel story.
Look forward to memorising the next song.”
Reading between the lines, it sounds like they actually printed and gave out the song words to learn ahead of singing them in church. And I suppose that for visitors you would need to have some printed sheets available. But what an interesting challenge. I might try this! How much better would people “get” the gospel in song if they committed to learning it to sing together, to one another, for the good of one another, as the gathered Body of Christ.