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Peter Clarke



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jazz music for Christian worship

WHY IS IT NEEDED?

 

Over the past 20 years or so, the trend in many of the more charismatic churches has been towards full-on rock music. We have witnessed the phenomenal success of Hillsong, Soul Survivor, and many others. In many ways, this has been beneficial: it makes the church, and hence Christianity itself, more attractive to young people, to whom other traditional forms of church music are no longer interesting or relevant. It also equips the church with singable, memorable songs; simple digestible lyrics; shareable CDs (a useful evangelism tool); and an impressive shop window to show the world that we are not boring has-beens.

 

These advantages, however, come at a price. Many churches now confront their Sunday congregation with what amounts to a high-tech, high-volume rock concert during the worship time. The result is that many of the attendees become passive, participating neither in an act of corporate worship nor in individual communion with God. Also, the programme of songs is typically tightly coordinated, resulting in little room or appetite for flexibility to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are back where we started in the days of hymn-singing led by a distant choir and organ, only louder.

 

Moreover, the lyrics of too many current songs have become 'bless me'-centred and over-simplified. Simple is good, but we need a balance, and we need enough meat in our understanding of God to sustain us through the hard times that we all face.

 

 

WHAT WILL IT SOUND LIKE?

 

●   Quintessentially jazz in style, not just jazzed-up ballads and hymns; harmonically rich

●   Musically simple and memorable songs, suitable for congregational singing

●   Small bands with a light touch and minimal amplification

●   Outward focused lyrics with a positive theme (in contrast to the typical subject matter of secular jazz songs)

●   Sparing use of extended solos. Although these are a characteristic feature of bebop jazz, they would not be appropriate in a worship setting, as they draw too much attention to the music itself and the performers.

 

 

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

 

First, unfamiliarity. Few churches or bands have attempted jazz worship, so there is no repertoire of familiar songs to create a 'comfort zone' for band or congregation.

 

Second, musicians. Although our churches are probably full of fine jazz musicians, they are hiding because their skills aren't used in today's rock-fest. We have to develop a virtuous cycle in which congregations enjoy jazz worship, pastors and worship leaders demand it, and musicians are encouraged to come out of the woodwork and perform it.

 

 

WHY IS JAZZ THE ANSWER?

 

It isn't. It's just one of many possible answers. But the problem—that our corporate worship has become a techno-fest instead of a heart-to-heart with God—needs addressing, somehow.

 

 

MY DREAM

 

●   Build up a network of Christians—performing musicians, and others—interested in jazz worship.

●   Use this to develop a blueprint of what can be done, in terms of what will be beneficial to the church and what the church will realistically accept.

●   Develop a repertoire of songs and make it available to musicians who want to start the ball rolling in their area.

 

Does this strike a chord with you (F#m6+9 or anything else)? Then contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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