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Music and vital congregations: A practical Guide for Clergy

By William Bradley Roberts
Church Publishing, NY, 2009
RRP $29.95

Reviewed by Rev Dr Lew Born, a retired Minister, ex-Moderator and Director Dept of Christian Ed and life-long advocate of culturally relevant worship. He is part of the Robina Congregation.

Required reading for all involved in leading worship.

The author’s agenda is to assist towards a greater appreciation of the essential role of music in worship and regrets that most Seminaries in the USA don’t offer music appreciation courses for Clergy.

We might equally regret our local lack of in-depth Liturgy/Worship Leading courses for musicians and lay leaders.

My 2010 tour of 43 rural churches in all states, revealed commendable Presbytery workshops for churches without clergy.

The central theme is that music is integral to worship and “at its best ushers us into the Holy, deepens prayer, heightens praise, provides an aura of beauty, and reflects the nature of God”.

A Charles Wesley’s quote, “Give us the best music but make it friendly to the people”, is claimed as “the best succinct philosophy of church music I Know”.

One current problem is illustrated by the generational change in the definition of a music store which previously sold instruments and sheet music.

Today it more often sells CDs and DVDs.

This tends to a generation of “consumers of music rather than makers of music” and rejoices “the church is one of the few remaining environments where people are encouraged to make music”.

Dr Roberts suggests the roles of any church leader include that of pastor, teacher and performer.

Controversy over the latter could be avoided if he substituted the word “artist”, as in “actor”.

If the actor draws attention to self rather than the drama the play is lost.

So too in worship.

This applies to preachers as much as any worship leader.

He emphasises, “there is no right system of music” and parallels spiritual gifts with music appreciation gifts, for “it takes all of us with orientation to different music to make up the Body of Christ”.

A timely subject and a good read.