Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cross-cultural Heaven

On Thursday of our northeast tour, we visited Bill and Barbara Edgar in Philadelphia. Bill has been encouraging me to write a book, even though he and I know that there are a lot of books out there on worship and music.

As I have been outlining the book I would write, I have thought about the title, "I'll take you there: Diversity in Music and Worship". The line from the 1972 Staples' Singers song kind of sums up my experience in a cross cultural church, where the worship service brings together many of the elements that make us so. In a sense, it is the calling on the musician to take the congregation there.

So few churches in this country are committed to cross-cultural worship, that I am thinking and outlining the arguments for such a congregation. There are the familiar ones about unity, reconciliation, and justice. But the one I hear said when a black church comes to visit our church with choir and pastor pulling up in a charter bus is simply, "this is the way heaven's going to be."

That statement is based on the passage in Revelation 7:9, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."

If this is true, why are not more churches striving to be inclusive in their music and worship? Is it just too hard to blend here on earth with all our cultural differences? Or is there actually going to be layers of sound around the throne, with each culture praising God in its own way, but none actually singing the same thing?

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce, paints a picture of heaven where everything is strong, and substantive, and plain people are beautiful. Don Piper, in his book 90 Minutes in Heaven tells of singing that blends together all styles and eras, but he didn't see different races and ethnic groups in his vision of glory.

I live in Tennessee; maybe cross-cultural worship is common in, say, San Francisco or Boston. Uh, I don't think so.

I know a place
Ain't nobody cryin'
Ain't nobody worried
Ain't no smilin' faces
Mmm, no no
Lyin' to the races
Help me, come on, come on
Somebody, help me now
I'll take you there

1 comment:

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I attend an Episcopal church outside Phila. that has a historically mixed congregation; Black & white worshiping together over generations & buried together in the memorial garden. I searched for a long time for this place & I feel blessed by it. The music is very white-church though; even the "Negro spirituals" in the hymn book are high-churched by the organ (& one of the organists is Black). I look forward to reading your book as soon as you get it done. I think your ideas on this topic would have a good impact on the Church as a whole.

I remember hearing you & loving your music in concert @ college in the 80s. Still have some vinyl around here. Glad you are still rockin. Keep on!

About Me

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I am a person who is perceived as youthful, although I am in my late 50s. I play and sing music, and it tends to keep me in the culture, like a lot of young people do. I am a "high I" on the DISC Behavioral Test, which means I'm optimistic, enthusiastic, a team player, and I motivate others toward goals. I don't like exercise, but I have a high metabolism, so I don't tend to be overweight at this time in my life! I have recently been doing moderate exercise and physical therapy for a shoulder condition.