Roberts’ Music and Vital Congregations
Contradicting the traditional view of children as the future of the church, Roberts views them as the immediate present and the integral part of any congregation (Roberts, 2009, 65). Children make the congregation complete with their vitality and full-bodied enjoyment of life. Therefore, they should be made full-fledged members of the parish liturgy and offered the best facilities and resources available to participate in the church music. Due to the special absorbability of childhood memory, they get a long-term impression of their experience and develop “lifelong pattern of commitment and spiritual attachment” to the church (Roberts, 2009, 66).
For children to make the best contribution to parish liturgy, it is significant to take them absolutely seriously and respectfully. Since children are very sensitive to whether they are condescended to or really respected, it is vital that their role in worship is taken seriously (Roberts, 2009, 67). Not only the manner of treatment but also the repertoire should be such as to show the big responsibility placed on children in worship. The immediate appeal of light music soon wears off, while the appreciation of serious music increases with its repetition (Roberts, 2009, 69). Therefore, when performing serious music, children are treated with due respect as significant participants of liturgy and not simply exploited for mere entertainment.
Introducing a serious repertoire in church music for children is most efficient when it is started with the youngest. Being the most perceptive, little children are easily inspired to achieve the ‘adult’ goals in performance, and further carry this serious attitude on to their teenage and adulthood (Roberts, 2009, 70). It is also important that music leaders involved in educating the young generation share the same values and strive for the same goals.
An excellent example of a professional organization that helps develop musical ministry with children is the comprehensive curriculum of the Royal School of Church Music (Roberts, 2009, 70-72).
Wilson-Dickson’s Story of Christian Music
The key peculiarity of Christian tradition development in North America is that it was established far away from Europe without any worship customs. The only source of tradition was the Bible text, and this lack of outward decoration is still preserved in the directness and simplicity of worship style. The earliest songs of worship were the Puritan psalms, and the first singing practice was the quite disorderly “lining-out” (Wilson-Dickson, 1992, 184). In the early 18th century, attempts were made to make the singing more regular by conducting “singing by note” in singing schools (Wilson-Dickson, 1992, 185). Self-taught instructors attempted at instructing the congregation in solmization and invented different simplified systems of notation.
When Christianity was introduced to African slaves in America, they enriched the hymns of the white with life and vigor characteristic of African music (Wilson-Dickson, 1992, 192). After 1770, the first black churches were formed, and by the beginning of 19th century the first book of black hymns was published, reflecting the changing musical tastes of the time. African worship was marked by a special informality, ardor, and merriness of its participants.
The genre of spirituals emerged in the countryside, combining biblical words with ecstatic call-and-response music (Wilson-Dickson, 1992, 194-195). It was popularized by the Fisk Jubilee singers’ tours of the Northern States and Britain in 1870s (Wilson-Dickson, 1992, 198-199).
At the same time, the first evangelistic teams appeared consisting of a preacher and a musician. Converting large numbers of Americans, they conveyed the simplest messages of the Bible in familiar, emotionally direct white gospel music based on popular styles. The black gospel possessed a totally different character: rooting in African culture, this music arose ecstatic excitement emphasized by hand-clapping and body movements (Wilson-Dickson, 1992, 201-202).
Roberts, William B. (2009). Music and Vital Congregations: A Practical Guide for Clergy. New York: Church Publishing.
Wilson-Dickson, Andrew. (1992). The Story of Christian Music. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.