It’s hard for me to think of a worship experience that doesn’t involve music. Perhaps I’m biased from years in the youth choir we used to have here and now as a member of the Parish Choir, but the two go hand in hand for me. Despite that history, I’ve never given much thought to why music seems to play such a important role.
Of course music’s role in Christianity has been shaped by earlier traditions and the buffeting winds of history, but I think that there’s an important connection that lies even deeper. Music is a bridge between the human and the divine precisely because it is so human. Whether you sing (even just in the shower), play an instrument, dance along, or simply enjoy the experience, music is written deep in a fundamental part of humanity. Even if you’ve lost your sight, your hearing, or a limb, you can still be a part of the experience.
Music then stands as an accessible entry point to worship. It draws people in who might otherwise have some barrier to entry. It meets them in their homes if they can’t go out. It reaches out through the streets to where they are. It greets them at the threshold if they can’t come in. It is therefore reasonable to argue that music should be, as it is at St. John’s, a central part of the equation for any church that seeks to be open and welcoming. After all, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”