Riddim to the Lord
Music is, and continues to be, a vibrant force in Christian celebration and worship. Whether that music is the more laid-back, traditional type, medium tempo or percussion-driven, pacey handclapping, rhythmic style, it does not matter. When one talks of comtemporary church music, perceptions of tempo and rhythm, or songs accompanied by a band outfitted with stringed and, or wind instruments and percussion, that stimulate dancing, tend to come to mind.
It could be argued though, that band music and tempo in Christian gatherings are nothing new, even if the genre may be.
Yes, we have reggae, soca, cadance, spouge, African-American church music, jazz, Negro spiritual and soul, but when one looks at the Scriptures, it is almost impossible to imagine the music which the children of Israel constantly used to celebrate God-instigated victories or deliverance, as not being energetic, full of verve and rhythmic. Many of us may even think that brass sections in bands is a relatively modern thing too.
But examine 1 Chronicles 15 and 16, and see the kind of “mass music” (and dancing) that was on display when king David brought the Ark of God to Jerusalem from Obededom. There were hundreds and hundreds of people playing percussion instruments, wind instruments and stringed instruments and singing to the top of their voices. Says 1 Chronicles 15:28: “Thus all Israel brought up the Ark of the Convenant of the Lord with shouting, and with sound of the cornet and with trumpets and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps.”
David himself put down some serious dance movements and played on an instrument, as the Ark was being brought into the city (1 Chronicles 15:28). David even got the chief of the Levites to appoint people who were vocal and instrumental experts to lead this massive band of musicians (1 Chronicles 15:16).
Consider also 2 Chronicles 29, where king Hezekiah, the son of David, led worship to God with animal sacrifice and lots of music that involved brass, percussion and stringed instruments. My point is that, the children of Israel, the chosen people of God, were ahead of their times, with respect to instrumentation. Yet there are some church folk (and church bodies) that would dismiss or criticize Caribbean rhythms in church music.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is divided on the types of musical instruments permitted in the various assemblies –– the generally accepted one being the piano/ keyboard. One would hardly find a full band performing in their worship.
The once conservative Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church and Methodists have begun to see the light and have started to include a wider mix of genres that reflect the rhythms of the Caribbean and original hymns. Throughout the Holy Scripture, music and song are used to celebrate God. That is why I find it amusing when some Christians seek to demonize tempo and rhythm in church music.
This is not to say that all church music must be in that vein. There is music which is appropriate for soothing the soul, like that performed by David on his harp for Saul, that resulted in the evil spirit with which he was afflicted, leaving him (1 Samuel 16:23). The prodigal son was also feted with music –– and dancing –– as he was welcome back home by his father (St Luke 15:25). One can therefore deduce, that music, is a God-given force, which ought to be enjoyed and applied in its various forms for various moments –– and too for the honour and glory of the One who gave it.