The Quality of Our Singing: excerpts from Connie W. Adams

From Connie W. Adams, “The Quality of Our Singing” Plainfield Church Bulletin. Church of Christ, Plainfield, Indiana, March 7, 1983:

I am not disposed to be a chronic censor of the song book.  While there are some songs which are unscriptural (and we have never seen any song book totally exempt from all criticism), we certainly do believe in poetic license.  It is possible to become so literal in our understanding of words that it would be impossible for some of the brethren to ever understand the book of Psalms or some of the prophetic writings where figures of speech abound.  But for the life of me, it is hard to derive much spiritual food from “The Jericho Road”, “Let Us Have a Little Talk With Jesus”, or “I’ll Be Somewhere List’ning For My Name.”  Some of the songs which the brethren seem to glory in were written for Pentecostal-type camp meetings and were designed to show off bass, alto or tenor leads.  The start and stop, hold your breath, let it out, pat your foot, up, down, in, out type of songs seem to be what many of the song leaders prefer.  Meanwhile, we have reared a generation of young people who do not know the great songs of faith. They are being greatly deprived and impoverished and we have many of our song leaders to blame for it.

Earlier in the article he cited the widespread use of Ellis Crum’s Sacred Selections as one reason why “congregations have been victimized by song leaders who prefer only the show-off quartet type songs, mostly of the Stamps-Baxter variety” and laments “in a book with well over 600 songs, why must a congregation be limited to about 75 songs while some of the greatest songs of faith are never used?” Adams then noted that in the prior decade (which would have been 1973-1983) “every time “The Old Rugged Cross”, or “Amazing Grace”, or “Tell Me The Story of Jesus” was sung, [he] had to ask for it.”

My thanks to Chris Cotten for calling this to my attention some years ago while we sorted a great deal of bulletins—a great deal– and along the way found a few nuggets.  In the thirty years since Adams penned this article  so-called mainstream Churches of Christ experienced a decade or so of worship wars.  I wonder how things panned out among Non-Institutional churches during this same period of time.  I don’t know Connie Adams preaching appointments for 1973-1983, but wonder how representative his observation might be today.  Does a similar situation obtain today?  Can a generalization even be fairly made?

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3 thoughts on “The Quality of Our Singing: excerpts from Connie W. Adams

  1. – SEVERAL NOTES —
    -Adams is correct regarding the “Camp Meeting Songs.”
    – One must note the fundamental distinction between the inspired and the uninspired “poetic license.”
    – One common problem is left unmentioned. Let us take the Old Rugged Cross. For every 50 times I’ve heard it led, 49 have been offensive. Drag it out and we can hear the nails being slowly driven in. Overly speed it up and it sounds like a “rush job so one can get on with their life.”
    -The stoning I will take, but it must be said that as often as we sing spiritually “un-nourishing songs,” so we often sing all songs in a spiritually un-nourishing manner.
    -We are wrong to insist the song be sung as written. The “music” must fit the emotion and the information of the song, or it is sung in vain. If one is singing with the Spirit and the “understanding,” then in many assemblies (and funerals), one must be quiet for the lack of understanding certainly indicates an offense to the Spirit.
    – As in oral reading one must read with appropriate emphasis, etc., so we must sing with the appropriate emphasis. This is often ignored and is one reason many are ashamed to invite outsiders to attend. It is undoubtedly one reason some of the young adults are leaving. Many services, from sermon to scripture readings, to prayers, to songs are so poorly thought out that they are indefensible.

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