A Capella and the Trinity

Arts and TheologyThis past Sunday at Orlando Grace (which is in process of a new website, by the way), I did what was most uncomfortable for me. I did an a capella service (or acapella?). No instruments. Not even other voices. Just me and a hymnal. At first it was scary, but I think it turned out well.

My reasoning for this is not just to do something different (although that is good, too), but was to demonstrate certain aspects of the Trinity and to a lesser degree, affirm the use and importance of music itself in a church service. I didn’t even get to the fact that our bodies are instruments, but maybe that’s for some other week.

So I am standing there in front of the congregation, my guitar now ripped from my iron fists of fear, with nothing but a music stand and microphone. Technically, I was afraid of not starting on the right note, which would make the rest of the song too high or too low. I may have erred on the low side, but it didn’t seem to be much of a distraction. Theologically what I was trying to get across was this (and the confession we picked affirmed this as well): Our God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons.

There is a unity that comes with diversity. And this is a unity in the great sense of the word, not the political correct flavored version. The Trinity’s unity, in one sense comes from the very fact that they are different. And this is the basis of our relationships with one another. We can be unified in our diversity. Christianity is not something that, once it is a part of you, you must become like everyone else. It is not in its nature to be dehumanizing. In fact, it is the opposite! Christianity affirms our differences, our different personalities, giftings, etc., and says we are united because of the uniqueness. We can be one and many at the same time.

And this is where the a capella idea came in. The total sound of the congregation when singing something like Holy, Holy, Holy can be classified as one and many at the same time and space. There is one overall sound and there are many voices. And the overall sound would be something different if one person was not there. I would go so far to say it requires diversity to be unified. That would be the difference between being the same and being unified. We need each other in order to make one sound. This is made all the more clear when people sing different parts and harmonize with each other. This is also something we don’t get to hear when other instruments are in the sound field.

Our church, like may others, projects the words to the songs on a screen so we don’t have to print out song sheets each week. The projector is great, but I think something is lost in that. When all we see is text (like on a screen) we forget the music itself means something. At least a hymnal has notes associated with the words so we can see that a corporate worship song is music plus text. A corporate worship song is not just text. And when we forget about the music, I think we lose out on what the music itself has to teach us, just one of those lessons being unity and diversity.