On Sunday, I sang in a new church for the first time. My piano teacher is the worship leader of the church we have been attending, so I kind of expected that I would be coerced on stage. And really, it does not take a lot of coercion: I am beyond willing. I love to sing and I love to help other people sing. After the service, I was approached by a number of people thanking me for leading, people curious about me and us, this couple that they’ve seen only a few times and this girl who seems completely willing to step in front of a crowd of strangers. One older man in particular stuck out in my mind.
“I used to really dislike it, you know. People singing at the front with a microphone. But then HJ, the worship leader, helped me understand: you’re a cantor, from the old tradition.”
This brief conversation got me thinking a bit about music and how it is used — and misused — in churches. There is a fine balance in that role of worship leading though: a worship leader must be a strong singer or risk hindering rather than helping a congregation. But, at the same time, leading the congregation and even singing for the congregation during an offering or as a time for special music is not about performance. Doesn’t sound too complicated, right? Lead, but don’t perform. So why does it seem to me like so many churches miss the mark? In an effort to be contemporary, cutting-edge, to try to draw young people into the church, it seems the focus can very easily be lost. Lightshows, unpredictable music, and unexpected key changes take over. The band moves from leading to galloping ahead, without a care as to where the congregation is. New, cutting-edge song after new song leads to frustration, especially when these songs are not well-suited to congregational singing.
Ultimately, as a worship leader, I believe you need to listen to your congregation and you need to know who they are: if your purpose is to help them worship and help them connect to God, you will be successful, as long as you’re open to picking up the hymn book every so often to do it.
I felt whipped after the church service, whipped yet energized and excited at the same time. It’s a weird combination. It made it difficult to get my butt out of the chair and into the kitchen once we got home. But there’s something about Sunday soup that is so comforting that it’s impossible to pass up. And, we had just done a huge trip to the grocery store on Saturday, so we have plenty of fresh veggies in the fridge. And yet, I was feeling a touch uninspired. Surprisingly, in the end, this was pretty tasty, despite the little effort I managed to put into it.
White Bean Soup
A couple scoops of butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
A couple heaping tbsp of flour
Cook the onion in the butter until the onion is translucent. Add the flour and stir together. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, cooking constantly.
(This technique is called a roux. It’s a wonderful technique and one of the best things I learned in 2010.)
4 cups water
1 package Knorr Vegetable broth
1 tbsp chicken bouillon
A dusting of basil, oregano, Montreal chicken spice and whatever other spices you wish to add
1 carrot chopped
1 potato chopped
1/2 to 1 cup rinsed white beans. You can also use canned. Canned would, in fact, produce quicker, if not better, results. Just make sure you rinse the beans first, no matter what kind you use.
Mix the water into the cooked roux and add all of the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil to cook the beans. Reduce the heat and simmer for a couple hours, stirring occasionally. Taste the beans. If you deem them soft enough and the rest of the soup hot enough, go ahead and eat!