What is your experience with contemporary Christian music? Many of us have a contemporary Christian music story, much like we have a Church story, filled with memories, hopes, and disappointments.
I grew up in a moderate-to-conservative United Church of Christ congregation, where spiritual comfort is still found in the formal liturgies of The [Evangelical & Reformed] Hymnal, where Sunday School lessons teach God as Father and I suspect the felt board lessons of my childhood are not too far gone, where the Pennsylvania Dutch adage against airing dirty laundry holds fast but people genuinely love & take care of one another. I was the second woman to be ordained in that sanctuary, and the only daughter of the church to enter ordained ministry.
In my teen years, the youth programs of this church introduced me to contemporary Christian music. I loved Michael W. Smith (“Friends Are Friends Forever” around a campfire, anyone?), Jars of Clay, the rock band Petra, and the uplifting experience of singing choruses in a large crowd of peers. Rich Mullins (of “Awesome God” acclaim) was and remains a family favorite; Mullins’ music expresses holy mystery and theological curiosity in ways that still move and comfort my soul.
But Rich Mullins was one of the very few artists that I knew in contemporary Christian music whose lyrics gave witness to a faith that struggled and wondered; most of the praise & worship music I heard resounded with a theological perspective that allowed little room for questions. When I moved to college, I joined a fellowship that worshiped with contemporary Christian music . . . until it became apparent that the fellowship required me to affirm an absolute faith in God the Father & Jesus the Eternity-Ticket, and a worldview that saw sin as a spiritual concern only . . . so I withdrew from contemporary Christian music and from the singular theology that seemed destined to accompany it.
Many years later, I am delighted to discover that a colleague is reclaiming the joy and power of worship & praise music with a theological worldview that affirms social justice, inclusion, and a marveling delight in the Holy. UCC minister Rob Leveridge is producing an album, Dancing on the Mountain, that provides worship music to move the spirit & set the body dancing! Three songs are already available:
- The Seeds of Peace, a benediction song, puts intention and a rhythm of faith into our steps as we manifest God’s blessing for the world.
- No Matter What (currently my favorite track) shakes off the weight of rejection and hardship to celebrate the joyful certainty of God’s grace and to claim Jesus’ invitation into renewed life: “The stone is rolled away!”
- Isaiah 65 gives the album its name by envisioning the reconciled community of all people and all creation dancing together on the holy mountain.
I commend Rob’s music to you for your congregation and for your own spiritual refreshment. And if you, like me, have been disenfranchised by the contemporary Christian music genre, I invite you to experience new worship music that might restore your faith in the possibility of raising your hands to praise God while still reaching out to welcome all people from all faith & life journeys.