When I picked up Darrly Tippens’ book, Pilgrim Heart, I knew something was different: anyone who has a chapter on singing in a book about spiritual disciplines has my interest. Why? Because, no matter how much we talk about discipleship, singing music plays a role in the development of Christians far more than most realize. In my lifetime, the biggest change I’ve seen in Sunday morning services is the music — we’re still preaching sermons and taking offerings and greeting one another with The Peace — and we’re still singing — but we are singing in a way unlike ever before.
“Music,” he says, “may well be the most overlooked of all the spiritual disciplines” (154). What do you think of this?
Tippens begins with the potent story of Anne Lamott: music drew her into a church and it was the music that washed over her and drew into personal faith. Augustine, too, was overwhelmed by music in the church at Milan. Kathleen Norris thought “singing was the purpose of religion” (147).
Worship in the Bible inevitably resorts to symbolic language, image and song. I like this statement by Tippens: “Without music we are left with talk” (148). Thus, he speaks of “music’s power to take us where the intellect cannot go” (148). Further, “the force of hymns is often extraordinary because, when we sing, body, emotion, and intellect are mysteriouisly connected” (150).
Perhaps, he says, “the day is not far off when congregations will devote as much attention to worship music as they do to the preaching or youth programs” (153). I’m not so sure that day has not already arrived in some churches.
We fight about music so his statement from George Ives is so apt: “You won’t get a wild, heroic ride to heaven on pretty little sounds” (154).