From the Director
Ash Wednesday 2018
"My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?" (Psalm 6:3)
Most church musicians, when asked, "What do you do?", reflexively answer, "I lead God's praises." Some may take a little more thought and reply, "I lead the assembly's song", implying that the Church's melody comprises both praise and prayer. But there's something more...
Each Lenten season (along with making our lives much busier!) reminds church musicians that an integral part of the song they lead is the peoples' lament---the deploring, regretting, grieving, mourning, and repenting not only of our own sinful lives, but also the fallen nature of all humanity and the horrible ways that invades everyday life.
It's easy to see how this dimension of our work can become neglected. Our Western culture rarely acknowledges personal sin and the corrupted heart of each individual. When it does, society has nothing to fall back on other than recrimination and social punishment. To make matters worse, much of the Church has (often for legitimate reasons) moved other agendas to the forefront of its ministry, pushing aside the reality of sin and its pervasive, polluting influence. And, we must admit, even when the Church does attempt to take lament seriously, we find that our liturgical forms and musical settings have seriously dampened the intensity of that mourning.
Most of life is filled with surface emotions----happiness, sadness. Sorrow (like joy) is a deeper feeling, one formed slowly over time and thus felt much more profoundly.
We have a great blessing to draw from as we address this task---the "Psalms of Lament" (32, 130, 143 especially during Lent) as well as countless other texts written by mature Christians over the last 100+ generations all express these insights in a myriad of ways.
For the next forty days (and beyond) true lament allows us to put a laser focus on the source of our hope. The cross tells us everything we need to know about the character of the triune God and his presence in our lives. Lament is core to the life of a Christian, our faith and our hope.
Whether you do church music as a vocation or avocation, I hope that each morning you will realize the depth of your calling and the many facets that make up leading God's people in song. And we invite you to visit the Center's website often to explore further our important work.
Barry L. Bobb