Written by Greg Scheer The term “blended worship” often arouses suspicion in those who have studied the church’s rich choral legacy, hymn repertoire, and organ literature. “Blended” doesn’t have to be a four letter word, however; in fact, combining traditional and modern forms is nothing new. Worship traditions handed down through the generations have always been supplemented by music borrowed from outside the church. Eventually these contemporary musics became grafted into the tradition, and today most hymnals include French folk songs, African American spirituals, Gospel hymns, or Appalachian melodies. Today’s new music will become part of the church’s future worship vocabulary, as well. But this music is not only important to the church of tomorrow–it also plays a vital role in the church of today.
Adding new music is essential to the vibrancy of your church’s worship. It is important that any music you add is compatible with your congregation’s current repertoire; if the juxtaposition between styles is too great, it will lead to a jarring worship flow and congregational conflict. Only you and your pastor can decide what music strikes a proper balance. But where should you look for contemporary worship music that will blend well with your worship service?
Blended Collections The term “blended” worship is most often associated with Dr. Robert E. Webber, professor at Northern Baptist Seminary, who is known for his many books on worship and his monthly column in Worship Leader magazine. His Renew! [1995, Hope] hymnal draws together music from a variety of traditions; it is a great place to start a search for new music, especially for traditional or liturgical settings. Also, his books Blended Worship [1996, Hendrickson] and Planning Blended Worship [1998, Abingdon] are excellent resources for further reading. Another popular blended collection is The Celebration Hymnal [1997 Word/Integrity], which is a good choice for churches who want hymns and praise songs in one hymnal. Its predecessor, The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration [1986, Word] has a small selection of early praise and worship as well as the “greatest hits” of hymnody and gospel hymnody.
Praise and Worship The worship music that came out of the 1960’s “Jesus Movement” was countercultural in its day, but is now one of the most popular styles of church music. One of the original songbooks of the praise and worship movement is the Praise Chorus Book, 4th ed, (the “green book”) [1997, Maranatha! Music], has proven to be of enduring value. Another classic is Songs for Praise and Worship [Word Music]; its worship planner edition has expanded indices and articles on planning and leading worship. The WoW Worship series (blue, orange and green) are a collaboration between Integrity, Vineyard, and Maranatha, containing the current best-selling praise and worship. Another source of the most current songs is the bimonthly SongDiscovery [http://www.songdiscovery.com] which is put out in conjunction with Worship Leader magazine. Two more solid collections that deserve to be on worship leaders’ shelves are The Source [1998, Kevin Mayhew Ltd], edited by Graham Kendrick (author of “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and many others) and The Best of the Best: The Other Songbook 2 [2000, Fellowship]. Both of these have a great selection of songs as well as excellent indices.
Modernized Hymns One way to smooth the edges of a blended service is to include the praise team in the leading of hymns. The Worship Team Hymnbook (http://www.communityworship.com/) is a large anthology of hymns in lead sheet format that will allow guitarists, bassists and pop pianists to play chords. The Reformed University Fellowship’s RUF Hymnbook takes a different approach, featuring the words of almost 300 historical hymns set to entirely new music. It is not a simple task to balance different styles of music in one service. This basic library of contemporary worship music is a starting point for those seeking to blend new music into a traditional context.
_________________ Greg Scheer is the Director of Music Ministries at Northwestern College in Iowa where he teaches in the music department, leads chapel worship, and oversees the college’s music ministry major. His side projects include authoring books about contemporary worship and hosting music workshops. (http://www.gregscheer.com).