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For people who like traditional, how much "contemporary" is too much?

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  • For people who like traditional, how much "contemporary" is too much?

    I'm the new Worship & Music committee leader at my ELCA Lutheran church. When I first joined three years ago, and indeed up to about 6 months ago, the church was as traditional as could be. Pipe organ, adult choir, and the old favorite hymns every week. Rewind to about August; Rosy approaches me and asks if I want to help form a "praise band". Guitars (even electric), drums, bass, keyboard, everything you need to totally rock it out. We'll be using the Now The Feast liturgy (very well-known at our church, but normally played on organ) and the hymns we've done for special occasions with guitars, like Youth Sundays.

    The service comes, we do our bit (including Jars of Clay's "Faith Like A Child") and I'm totally expecting the older people to clear the pews. Instead, there's applause, people standing up and dancing, and even our oldest members in wheelchairs and walkers are telling the Pastor on their way out that they wouldn't mind seeing this every Sunday.

    So, long story short, I've been leading a, I guess you could call it "blended" worship on first Sundays ever since. We play contemporary instruments on a modern setting to a traditional liturgy and order of worship. On those Sundays, attendance doubles, so we're on to something.

    So now (after three paragraphs) we get to the question. We want to take it further. Currently our group uses clean electric and acoustic guitars, with stompboxes being used very sparingly and very subtly (i.e. chorus). My specific question, which I've put into the more general poll question, is whether or not overdriven guitar has a place in a church service. I say yes; if we're playing a song by, say, Francesca Battistelli, and trying to cover the album version, then as long as it mixes well you can crunch your guitar a bit. Others have reservations; if the congregation hears what they perceive as distortion they'll shut down, OD's too gritty and irritating for the old folks, you can't mix it properly, etc etc. I think they have a point; the "OD" pedal currently on the guitarist's board is really more of a distortion pedal (very dirty, heavily-clipped even at low gain levels). However, he's considering one that I've play-tested and can easily get a very agreeable sound from. We ask the question because the pedal's $100 that he'd rather not spend if it won't work on basic principles.

    So, in asking this question, I want to pose a more general question to those of you currently attending or leading a traditional worship; At what point does it become "too much" for your tastes? I ask you guys and not the contemporary church because you're where my church was less than a year ago; if I asked this over there I'd probably get mostly "anything goes" answers. Keep in mind, we use the guitars for service only once a month and may go with twice a month, and we also have a traditional service in the early morning, so the "guitar-led" service is regular but not the rule.
    25
    Piano, organ and choral voice only.
    0.00%
    0
    Acoustic guitars are OK, no drums
    0.00%
    0
    Drums are fine, no electric instruments
    0.00%
    0
    Electric keyboard and/or bass are acceptable, no electric guitar
    4.00%
    1
    "Clean" electric guitar is OK, no effects
    0.00%
    0
    Subtle effects like chorus/flanger are OK, no overdrive
    0.00%
    0
    Overdrive's OK, no distortion
    4.00%
    1
    Distortion's fine but no industrial or DJ-type sounds
    12.00%
    3
    Whatever is needed for the music is fine, don't add the smoke and lasers
    36.00%
    9
    As long as it's for Him, anything goes
    44.00%
    11
    Last edited by Liko81; 03-11-2009, 03:34 PM.

  • #2
    I doubt you're going to find many here who attend/lead a traditional service and would say that "contemporary" does not fit their tastes...my guess it, you're asking these questions of the wrong crowd.

    Nate
    Practical Worship

    Please Pray For My Wife

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by milepost13 View Post
      I doubt you're going to find many here who attend/lead a traditional service and would say that "contemporary" does not fit their tastes...my guess it, you're asking these questions of the wrong crowd.

      Nate
      Well, I might agree, but the question still stands; how much is too much? "Contemporary instrumentation" could be anything beyond the first option, and each has a proponent. I'd like to hear those opinions and why.

      Now, I do not want to start a "worship wars" thread where people start saying "you're wrong". I just want to get a general idea of what people think doesn't belong, if anything, in a worship witrh a traditional liturgy.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Liko81 View Post
        Well, I might agree, but the question still stands; how much is too much? "Contemporary instrumentation" could be anything beyond the first option, and each has a proponent. I'd like to hear those opinions and why.

        Now, I do not want to start a "worship wars" thread where people start saying "you're wrong". I just want to get a general idea of what people think doesn't belong, if anything, in a worship witrh a traditional liturgy.
        In that case, I'm having trouble understanding your question. By definition, "traditional" worship would need to be traditional, using traditional music, instruments, etc...otherwise, you're no longer talking about a traditional service. When I specifically want to worship at a traditional worship service, I expect it to be what I would define as "traditional" (which, again, is a totally subjective word), which would basically be your first poll option above. But, it sounds to me like you've already moved away from "traditional", which is why I'm not understanding your question.

        The only way you're going to be able to find the answer to your question about what you should be doing in your church is to ask the people in your church, which it sounds like you've already done.

        Nate
        Practical Worship

        Please Pray For My Wife

        Comment


        • #5
          Personally, I'd say you can have an extremely traditional liturgy with as many modern/contemporary instruments as your heart's desire.

          The liturgy shouldn't change.

          That being said, I think the direction of this question should be pointed at the people in your congregation. I think there will be many opinions based on preference here, which is fine, but ultimately it's the preferences of your congregation that are what matters.

          If they think OD is too much then it is.
          Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by russhutto View Post
            Personally, I'd say you can have an extremely traditional liturgy with as many modern/contemporary instruments as your heart's desire.

            The liturgy shouldn't change.

            That being said, I think the direction of this question should be pointed at the people in your congregation. I think there will be many opinions based on preference here, which is fine, but ultimately it's the preferences of your congregation that are what matters.

            If they think OD is too much then it is.
            I agree with Russhutto, it's the liturgy that counts.

            I also like to push the envelope so to speak, and try new things all the time. We used a bull horn once during a song, a people loved it. We don't use it all the time though. Use some OD, Flangers, Phasers, whatever. Let the musicians paint with their tones. If you have people who have a gift, it will be wonderful and pleasing to anyone. On the other hand, if they don't have a gift, it might be distracting.

            Hope all this helps.

            Comment


            • #7
              So...your question...about overdriven guitar, and if it has a place in a church service. The answer is yes, in every church I have served/played at. My advice would be to NOT take it to any kind of extreme, but some "crunch" is definitely acceptable.

              I agree with Russ...I usually do.

              Smitty
              Love ONE woman...MANY guitars!

              www.davidsproblem.wordpress.com

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with those who've said that it's all about context. It's like answering this question:

                For people who like contemporary, how much "traditional" is too much?

                Is it using a hymn? If that's okay, how about using the original hymn tune? What about instrumentation? What about a pipe organ? What about a choir? What about chanting? What about operatic settings of solos?

                I don't think anyone here means to demean your question but to point out that every community (and every church within that community) is different.

                Harold Best points out in one of his lectures at Southern Seminary in Louisville that all worship music is traditional - meaning that we all come in with our own traditions to make music. In this sense, modern worship music is just as "traditional" as Bach because it's what's normal for the worshipers - it's the language they speak.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Just do it. Try out what you want to do on a small scale in a service then evaluate the feedback that you get. The feedback you get here is going to be minimally helpful because of the uniqueness of each congregation and the fact that most of us are worship leaders. By the way, worship wars are overhyped in seminary and rarely ever happen, especially here on the forum.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I would agree with Stephen and Russ.

                    You can't really 1) ask that question here and get an answer that would relate properly to your congregation; and 2) know what your congregation will accept until you try it.

                    I would suggest trying it on one song, whatever you want, and then solicit some feedback.

                    We've gone over the past few years from no guitars to acoustic to clean electric. I now have a Bad Monkey OD and a Digitech modeller in my rig. The DT has a lot of distortion patches that I use a lot, often in combination with the Monkey. Gotta pick the song. But it's been a lot of experimentation with what people like and what sounds good for us. I've had people say "XX song sounded a little weird today." I've had people say "XX song sounded great today." I don't usually do solos, but I ripped one Sunday during a song, and it was fine.

                    Make your congregation a partner in it. Ask for feedback, and don't be too tender to it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      how much is too much?

                      When looking at the title of your post I thought....ask 10 different people and you will get at least 12 different answers!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        In a traditional service I definitely wouldn't expect overdriven electric guitar. But, as has been said, it's up to what your congregation likes and is willing to accept. If they love it, GREAT!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Liko81 View Post
                          I'm the new Worship & Music committee leader at my ELCA Lutheran church. When I first joined three years ago, and indeed up to about 6 months ago, the church was as traditional as could be. Pipe organ, adult choir, and the old favorite hymns every week. Rewind to about August; Rosy approaches me and asks if I want to help form a "praise band". Guitars (even electric), drums, bass, keyboard, everything you need to totally rock it out. We'll be using the Now The Feast liturgy (very well-known at our church, but normally played on organ) and the hymns we've done for special occasions with guitars, like Youth Sundays.

                          The service comes, we do our bit (including Jars of Clay's "Faith Like A Child") and I'm totally expecting the older people to clear the pews. Instead, there's applause, people standing up and dancing, and even our oldest members in wheelchairs and walkers are telling the Pastor on their way out that they wouldn't mind seeing this every Sunday.
                          As a Lutheran myself (LCMS, but in some respects lean toward ELCA) I'm excited to hear how well this approach is working for you!

                          I think there's a tendency for a lot of contemporary worship services to be very homogenous with each other. That may not be all bad, but it's nice to find something special that appeals to your particular congregation or community. I'm aware of a punk rock worship service and a country and western worship service in my area. Right now I'm working on getting a blues rock worship service started up.

                          It's wonderful that your congregation has responded so well. You'll have to let us know if you see any new faces being led through the door by your particular brand of blended worship!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TruePraise View Post
                            When looking at the title of your post I thought....ask 10 different people and you will get at least 12 different answers!

                            Ain't that the truth???

                            LOL
                            8-)



                            what? me worry?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Great topic!

                              I agree with much that has been said here. The congregation in the end dictates the flavor. At one of my churches, there were different music settings targeted for each service. One was traditional, one had contemporary, and one even had vocals only hymns, sans instruments.

                              I've always felt there was wisdom in that setup.

                              Peace,
                              TallPaul

                              Comment

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