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5 Simple Answers

Blogger Brian Hehn is the Director of The Center for Congregational Song, adjunct professor of worship at Wingate University, and Director of Music at Light Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD.



Common Quotes

“We should sing songs & hymns with good theology”

“5 ways to get your congregation singing”

“This song has good theology”

“This song has bad theology”

“This is a traditional hymn”

“This is a contemporary song”

Have you heard any of those quotes? I sure have. I hear versions of these quotes over and over again. There are endless articles and promotional materials that use these quotes. Do you have questions? We have answers. In fact, the answers are simple.



It’s Rarely Simple

It’s rarely simple. I’ve still got a lot of life ahead of me, but what I can tell you I’ve learned so far is that when people claim to have a simple answer, they’re most likely skipping over or ignoring a lot of nuance and complexities. Another thing I’ve learned from those I most admire and respect is that anyone who takes scripture seriously will quickly find out that keeping faith in God and learning to live in this world as a faithful follower is not simple. It’s complex.

The complexities of faith, ministry, and congregational song are why I love the work of The Center for Congregational Song so much. We know we’re part of something much larger than ourselves. There is so much wisdom that comes from so many different places because the God we believe in is bigger than we can imagine, and God’s family is complicated. That is why you’ll rarely see something from The Center for Congregational Song that tries to boil down what we do and who we are into something simple. What we do is not simple; it’s complex, and it’s difficult.


Partnerships & Resources

When there are so many possible people and organizations to partner and work with, it’s often hard to know where to pour our energy. When considering partnerships or what resources to share and/or promote, many times it comes down to this phrase from our Guiding Stances: do they have “strong, thoughtful convictions, and yet approach their work with humility and collegiality?” The answer to this question can manifest itself in many ways, but it rarely leads to a place where there is a simple “how-to” list. Instead, we find that questions are best answered through conversation. Conversations are contextualized by story-telling and nuanced by relationship and community. Answers are affirmed through ritualized worship experiences, living together as a faith community, and the passage of time.

The complexities of faith, ministry, and congregational song are why I love the work of The Center for Congregational Song so much.

I think that is why I bristle when I hear phrases like “We sing hymns and songs with good theology.” There are missing parts of that sentence as well as an entirely missing follow-up sentence. What you really meant to say is “We chose these particular hymns and songs because the words have theology which we’ve discerned reflects our community of faith. We chose these particular hymns and songs because the words reflect who we believe God is calling us to be.” But that’s not click-bait, is it?


2 thoughts on “5 Simple Answers”

  1. Duane Toole says:

    I have heard the quoted sentence, “We sing hymns and songs with good theology.” Too often it is followed by statements that imply that their theology is better than anyone else’s.

    That makes me sad.

  2. Suzanne Olmsted says:

    Always looking for ways to help our worship folks sing together. I’m looking forward to following your conversations.

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