Another notable thing about our worship services in the CREC is that we are interested in learning how to sing “in parts.” It is a testimony to the damage that has been done in the realm of church music over the last few decades that many young Christians don’t even know what that means. This has largely come about as the result of two things—guitar accompaniment in worship and singing from overhead projectors.
In the older psalters and hymnals, there are usually four parts written out—the soprano, the alto, the tenor, and the bass, but on overhead projectors, usually the lyrics are the only thing available. This means that the congregation is forced into singing melody only, and sometimes there can be some trouble finding that. And while it is of course possible to sing harmony to guitar accompaniment, these parts are not usually written out (the way they are for piano) and are therefore not readily available for worshipers.
There are two basic reasons why we want to learn how to sing in parts this way. The first is that higher levels of musicianship (on the part of the whole congregation) give us more scope when it comes to glorifying God. We sing to Him because He is worthy (Rev. 4:11), and if He is worthy, then we should offer the best we can give him. We should seek to worship Him with skill (Ps. 33:3), as much skill as we have. And this is not something that is beyond the reach of ordinary people—the mere existence of so many hymnals and psalters with all four parts written out is a testimony to former times when there was a much higher level of musical literacy in Christian congregations.
The second reason is that this is a glorious way to testify to our Trinitarian faith. Musical harmony is one of the best illustrations available for unity in diversity and diversity in unity. Many voices coming together as one provide an embodiment of love, which is to say, an embodiment of triune life.
And actually, there is a third reason as well. Singing this way is beautiful, and immensely rewarding to those who are privileged to participate in it.
Having said all this, we should hasten to add that we don’t believe that our congregations have “arrived,” not by a long shot. This is a hard thing to do, and our congregations struggle with these and related musical issues. All we are saying here is that we think such a struggle is worth it.