Gospel Soundcheck

Gospel Soundcheck

What exactly is Emergent music?

Hopeforatreecutdown.jpgOver on Beliefnet’s The New Christians blog, which is a really interesting blog that talks about the emergent church and culture, blogger Tony Jones pointed his readers to a free download of an album from an “Anglimergent” church called Church of the Beloved. The album is called Hope For A Tree Cut Down.
OK, I’m just going to be honest. My very first thought was, “What a bunch of tree huggers,” until I realized the title refers to Job 14:7: “At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.”
Doh! I’m a dope.


I downloaded the album, and it’s nice. Acoustic and musically in style like a lot of praise music, kind of repetitive and hypnotic. Here are the lyrics for the song “Taken,” for example:
Long before anyone saw us we were seen by you.
Long before anyone heard us we were listened to.
Long before anyone spoke to us we were spoken to
by the voice of eternal Love, an everlasting Love.
Love that existed from all eternity.
Love that existed from all eternity.
Love that existed from all eternity
and will last through all eternity.
I am the chosen child of God,
precious in God’s eyes.
I am the chosen child of God,
precious in God’s eyes.
Called the Beloved from all eternity.
Called the Beloved from all eternity.
Called the Beloved from all eternity
and held safe in an everlasting embrace.

I can see how it would be used in a worship service, but it’s not breaking any musical boundaries. They also sing some of the standard response pieces used in an Anglican service (“Jesus, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world./Have mercy on us./Jesus, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world./Grant us your peace.”)
This album isn’t to be confused with The Operation’s 2001 alt rock release There Is Hope For A Tree Cut Down. That band included Mewithoutyou’s Aaron Weiss and Michael Weiss and former guitarist Christopher Kleinberg.
But back to this Emergent music release. What, exactly, is Emergent music? And how does it differ from plain old praise and worship music? Is it a new subsection of Christian music, or is it something new and different?

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posted December 15, 2008 at 4:23 pm

great post and great question: ‘what exactly is Emergent music and how does it differ from plain old praise and worship music?’
But, speaking from the community of Church of the Beloved, setting out to define Emergent music was the last thing on our minds as we created this offering of songs for worship. We read a book by Henri Nouwen called life of the Beloved. It inspired us and we wrote four songs. We were exploring what it means to be ‘creatively Lutheran’ and we borrowed a hymn text by Martin Luther and wrote a song. We are a sacramental community, and the Eucharist is central to our worship gatherings, so we wrote some songs for that. About twenty five folks from our community (which is only about fifty folks in all) were involved in the creation of the project (that’s %50 participation!), so it’s extremely collaborative and indigenous. Then we thought we’d like to share it and offer it for free.
So even though we don’t describe the music as Emergent, I’m guessing that in a musical climate where the majority of new music for worship comes from a money driven industry and created by superstars, “Hope for a Tree”‘s contextual homespun, merging ancient-future and free gift characteristics are considered by others as characteristics that the emerging church conversation values and lifts up. But our goal was to try and live into the vocation that Jesus is calling us to – reminding the world of their Belovedness.
Great post, great question, hope it inspires more questions.
Thanks Joanne!

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Joanne Brokaw

posted December 16, 2008 at 8:49 am

Thanks, Ryan!
I ask those questions a lot – What exactly is Christian music? Can it really be praise and worship if we’re pumping the products out by the dozens? Where do we cross the line into commercialization of the church? Would Jesus be turning over tables in the American church?
I appreciate the thought process behind the music. And what a great testament to your church that so many people participated. That’s awesome! I think God can do a lot more with 25 committed followers than with 2500 people in the pews for a Sunday morning show. ūüėČ
All the best,
host of the GS blog

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posted April 8, 2009 at 2:22 am

You may not like this but guess what – there are absolutes, God is a God of absolutes. Truth is truth whether it fits your style or not. Truth doesn’t change so you can feel better about your relationship with the church. Truth is an absolute. Jesus is the truth, He does not change. Get a grip Emergent Church, time is real short. SHAWN L.

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posted April 8, 2009 at 2:28 am

truth is truth. it does not change. truth is absolute. Jesus is truth.
Emergent Church, you seem to have a problem with absolutes. What are you afraid of? It seems to me that you are trying to become something different than your mom and dad, but in the process you error greatly. God is a God of absolutes. Time is short Emergent Church.

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