Monday, August 10, 2009

back in the buckle of the Bible belt

I had the privilege of leading the music for First Baptist, Waco yesterday morning. It was good to be back.

I had forgotten how beautiful the place is. The sanctuary is large, but feels intimate. Everything inside seems strangely clear and in focus. The pews are wooden and the floor creaks all over, but that's okay. It only adds to the warmth.

I also learned something that I took for granted during my three years there. FBC is a singing congregation. A lot of churches do music by having as big a group as possible on the platform and amping the sound up as much as possible. They create the feel of a singing congregation. They fill up the space electronically.

Yesterday at FBC was not like that. The choir was not large. The instruments were supportive but not overpowering. The difference was in the congregation. They were actually a congregation, not an audience vegging out on sensory inundation.

There was something else, too. They weren't just loud or hearty. There was some depth to their singing. It's hard to really put my finger on it. I don't want to make it sound like a purely emotional experience. Not at all. There was obviously a heart connection to the songs, both those they knew well and the new ones. It's great to be leading music in a place like that. I was able to step away from the microphone, quit waving my arm and participate.

I have always thought the tune to "Out of My Bondage" was mediocre. Not bad, but just so-so. With little help from me, FBC got it right yesterday. To hear Waco Baptists singing "Out of unrest and arrogant pride, Jesus, I come" was moving. It was a musical prayer and a great, worshipful response to the 1 John 1:5-10 preaching text. Brain to heart to mouth in 6/4 time.

I had also forgotten not to ever, ever drink Waco water. I swore I'd never forget. Thanks a lot, central Texas ranchers.


David said...

Thank you Jonathan for these words and for leading our congregation. I know that the members were inspired by your planning and direction. The experience you describe is like my own. I pray that the beauty and power of this congregation's voice will endure.

Chuck King said...

Thanks for the suggestion of hope that "Out of my bondage" is still viable. I will stop passing it over with a wistful sigh, and think about where and how to use it.