Is worship about the music?
A leading Scots lay Catholic has claimed the music sung in churches is “lousy” and is the reason why young people have stopped going to Mass.
Joan Dillon, a Masters graduate of RSAMD (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), also claimed music at Mass was “more rooted in pop music than in sacred traditions” and was often “so bad it distracted people from the true purpose of worship”.
She said 25 pupils from state schools currently learning Latin through the study of sacred music were the future lifeblood of the Catholic Church in Scotland.
Speaking prior to the launch of Scotland’s first Academy of Sacred Music (AOSM) in Glasgow tonight, Ms Dillon, its founder, told The Herald: “There has been some pretty lousy music sung in Catholic churches and that is where things have gone wrong, why congregations are shrinking.
“It need not be so. As a parent myself it seems to me young people are being brought up immersed in the negative messages of modern music via MTV, a lot of which is demeaning.
“They need the transformative power of sacred music to balance that, but instead they are getting banal, happy-clappy stuff at Mass. Sacred music can lift young people up and help them embrace more noble ideas, yet it is not sung in many Catholic churches in Scotland.”
I have been in quite a few Catholic Churches and agree that often the music can be bland and boring. Not only that, some of the songs are just flat out awkward to sing. The Church should take a closer at the music and see how it can add (or detract) to the worship, but I caution the message we send or how much importance we put on the music.
I live in the heart of the bible belt and there is no shortage of churches that one can choose from if one is not Catholic. I’ve seen churches setup in warehouses, old restaurants, outside and just about everywhere in between. As more and more churches spring forth, the effort put into the exterior dwindles, but upon entering these churches you will find something that resembles a modern concert hall or grunge band music venue. The altar and the pulpit have been replaced by a rock star setting complete with amps, drums, electric guitars, lighting and large screen televisions. Before you enter, you might even be able to get some Starbucks brew and popcorn.
With the erosion of mainline denominations, non-denominationals are becoming the fastest growing denomination. With each church that opens, the pews – or rather just folding chairs in many cases – need to be filled. This requires advertising and a whole host of programs to try and lure people from one church to another. I know some who have been “members” of 5 to 10 different churches in a few years time. And if you ask them why they leave one church for another, it almost always boils down to one of a few reasons: the pastor’s preaching style, clashes with other members or the music. What seems to be left out are theological principles. The essential has been traded in for the superficial.
We need to be careful that we aren’t focusing too much on the same.