Ask clergy, cantors and music directors about the relationship between music and worship, and they respond with a popular phrase credited to St. Augustine of Hippo: “Singing is praying twice.”
Jeffrey Hunt, music director at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, also noted the emphasis the Bible places on music through numerous references.
Specifically, he pointed to Psalms 150 – which calls for praising God with instruments that include the trumpet, harp, stringed instruments and cymbals – and Matthew 22:36-40, which says the greatest commandment is loving God with all your heart, soul and mind.
“I think music is a natural response to what Jesus tells us,” Hunt said.
“And,” he said, “it’s fun.”
Stephanie Heusinger, a cantor at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Sugar Grove, agreed.
The 28-year-old said she loves to sing, and by sharing her talents she might make Mass more enjoyable for someone else. The goal is to feature songs that make that week’s readings come alive, she said.
“It sounds simple, but it’s not as easy as it seems,” she said, noting she often collaborates with the parish’s music director on song selection.
St. Katharine Drexel gets its music from the “Gather Comprehensive,” a hymnal published by GIA Publications in Chicago, Heusinger said, adding the church also finds music in hymnals from publisher OCP.
“Both are companies that produce religious music and we have an annual license to use their materials,” Heusinger said in an email. “Other music we choose, a lot of times, comes just from experience and things that we’ve found from other musicians or have collected over the years.”
In addition to a traditional service, Bethany Lutheran Church in Batavia has offered a contemporary service in recent years. Senior Pastor Steven Srock said the contemporary service is less formal and features more contemporary music that uses a keyboard, drums and guitar rather than a piano and organ.
Churches that offer only one style miss out on different audiences, he said.
Although Baker Memorial focuses on traditional music, it also has special music events throughout the year that highlight other genres such as jazz and gospel, Hunt said. Its music ensembles include bell choirs, adult choirs, youth choirs and several instrumental ensembles, including winds, strings and brass.
The music opportunities not only give parishioners another way to participate in the church, Hunt said, but they also can nurture young talents in a positive way.
Anyone – the young, the old, the experienced, the nonexperienced, the good and the bad – is welcome, he said.
“Every voice is important,” said Hunt, comparing choirs to the message contained in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ,” starts that passage, which goes on to state no body part is more important than another, and ends with “… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”