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Christian Music and Vital Congregations

Music for Funerals and Weddings

The chapter entitled “Music for Funerals and Weddings” in Music and Vital Congregations by W.B. Roberts is an extensive overview of music at weddings and funerals in churches. The chapter presents the author’s view, combined with different policies on planning such ceremonies, in which the author provides the rationale for each policy. The author argues that despite the fact that many church professionals feeling reluctant to allow weddings and funerals for nonparishioners, performing only for members of the congregation, such ceremonies with care is an opportunity for evangelism to “minister people beyond the families themselves” (Roberts, p.76). In that regard, the author outlines the role of music in establishing the tone of the service, stating that if music is done well and it is similar in character to the regular worship, “people may be inclined to return for worship” (Roberts, p.76).

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In the first section of the chapter, the author provides an overview of the recommendations for music in funerals. The author indicates the peculiarity of such occasion, where the practice of publishing and distributing policies in advance would not be suitable. Nevertheless, the standards and the customs of the church should be followed, where it is advisable to establish the guidelines in person at the beginning of the discussion. Such approach will deter requests “before they are voice” (Roberts, p.77). The recommendations for clergies and musicians outlines that the best music for such occasion is the one that “builds them up and offers them consolation and hope” (Roberts, p.78).

The recommendations for weddings are more flexible in that matter, but despite the wider gamut of music allowed it is preferable that secular music is reserved for reception, while the music in church to be considered as a reflection of the service of worship. The guidelines in weddings are usually published in advance, mostly consisting of the attributes of appropriate music. The most important criterion in establish a policy for the music is that “the musical standards for these occasion should be as close as possible to the standards for parish’s music for a Sunday morning service” (Roberts, p.83).

Music in the Courts of Europe

The Story of Christian Music by Andrew Wilson-Dickson is a large body of information devoted to tracing the history of church music. In the fourth section of the book the author overviewed the prerequisites and the process of the decline of Christian music, mainly covering the nineteenth century. The author started with an overview of the music in the courts of Europe, where an alliance was established between the two, taking the ceremony of worshipping into a theatrical scale. Nevertheless, the winds of reforms that took over Europe put restrictions of ceremonies reflecting the power of the church, dissolving monasteries and buildings in Vienna and returning to the Latin liturgy in Spain (Wilson-Dickson, p.121).

The following chapters outlined the influence of each of the prominent movements of the 18th and the 19th centuries on Christian music. The romantic movement in the 19th century reflected the individuality of art, where “the arts became for many people a means [sic] of spiritual enlightenment, even the source of revelation” (Wilson-Dickson, p.122). Accordingly, the rise of the middle class contributed to the creation of a market for cultural entertainment, in which one of the sources of inspiration was past music. All of the latter had an impact on separating the spiritual dimension from everyday living.

The author outlined the renewal of Christian music as a consequence of such movement as the Oxford movement, which revived chants, hymns and improved the standards of Christian music (Wilson-Dickson, p.134-135). Other movements, participating in the revival of the Christian music included the initiatives of such organizations as YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and the Salvation Army, giving rise to the Christian gospel. The shift of the music away from the Church came in the 19th century when the profane associations of the art music of the 18th century were no longer tolerated by many Christians. Such loss resulted in the decline of the standards of Christian music, where church members were protected from the influence of the concerns of professional music outside (Wilson-Dickson, p.142).


Roberts, William Bradley. 2009. Music and vital congregations : a practical guide for clergy. New York: Church Pub.

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Wilson-Dickson, Andrew. 2003. The story of Christian music : from Gregorian chant to Black gospel : an authoritative illustrated guide to all the major traditions of music for worship. 1st Fortress Press pbk. ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

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