Harford, Donald L.
Preface : I have a wonderful heritage of church music given to me from my time as a boy growing up in the Salvation Army. I remember as a pre-schooler sitting next to my father in the Salvation Army band as he played the trombone in Sunday morning worship. Praise to God was double forte accompanied by a brass-band. During my early years our house was often filled with Salvation Army brass band and songster (church choir) music. Church of England hymns added to my adolescent understanding of the church song through week-day school assemblies and compulsory Sunday night chapel services for secondary school boarders in Zimbabwe. Time spent worshipping as an adult in Baptist and Presbyterian churches has further shaped my faith and added to my expression of worship through a widening palette of church hymns and songs. One Sunday more recently, I was standing in church singing and found myself struggling to bring any sense of worship to God with the words on the screen. I had spent the hour before church walking and praying in preparation for this worship time. The words left me isolated from my desire to focus on God in this communal setting. The song meant nothing to me. I had sung these words before, but they did not express the quality of worship I had experienced the hour previous, and I longed for silence as this would have been better than the amplified singing of the music group and the rather poor sound from the congregation. It was during this time that I began consciously looking at the words of our worship songs and started asking questions about them. For most of my life it had been the music that had captured me, and I was startled by this new quest. Questions confronted me: Are the words we sing in worship important? And if they are then how important in shaping our faith? My concerns about the widening gap between the life that we were singing about in church worship, and the reality of life in the world outside of the church walls, began to haunt me. God sees a broken world and his answer to this brokenness is Christ’s death and resurrection, yet my own church community seldom sings about the brokenness God sees. I began to wonder if in the lyrics of these songs we sing, we had somehow domesticated God. I started to ask whether these words were designed more for our own comfort than for the worship of God. Marva Dawn’s book Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down gave further shape to my thinking. She believes that ‘we dumb down the truth about God in a false effort to feel better about ourselves. If Marva Dawn’s proposition is true, I wondered, would it be reflected in the lyrics we sing communally in worship? Do we have a rounded theology in our lyrics? Are our congregational lyrics offering us a well- balanced expression of the Christian faith? My recent worship experience, and Marva Dawn’s comments raised unsettling questions that have given me the motivation to explore further. I invite you to join me on this journey.  Marva Dawn, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down (Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmanns 1995).  Ibid., 91.
Advisor: Smith, Brian
Degree Name: Master of Ministry
Degree Discipline: Department of Theology and Religious Studies
Research Type: Dissertation