Sunday, February 24, 2008


I have a Village Singers concert to sing in early this afternoon at a church over the other side of the metro area. No way I could make it to an 11:00 o'clock service and be on the risers on time. So I attended the 9:00 o'clock service at a large church in my area.

It's the "contemporary" service. I'd been to it a couple times previously, before the congregation added on their big new informal worship/multipurpose center.

This morning, I learned that the addition means not only a lot more space, it also means a bigger-and-better sound system and a lot more noise.

Lay aside the tunes and words of what was being sung. I'm talking about loudness. Volume. Decibels. Noise!!!

An ear-shattering, deafening force of sound that socked me in the senses as soon as I walked in the door.

And that was with only the worship team performing. This was the "prelude," after all.

I looked around to find some friends who attend this church, to see if I could sit with them. As I did, my eyes fell on infants, small children, elderly people, all folks whose hearing would be especially vulnerable to such an onslaught. But the kids' parents were sitting there quite happily with their little ones, and the white-haired elders seemed totally unfazed, all oblivious to what the amplification was doing to their ears.

Me, I could tell what it was doing to mine. By the next-to-the-last chorus, started by the praise team alone, I had to cover my ears and hope my friends would not be embarrassed to be seen sitting with me. At the first da capo, the congregation rose and joined in. I followed suit, and tried covering just one ear so I could hold my song sheet with the other. But on the second repeat (third go-round), the sound technician ramped up the volume a few dozen more dBs, and I had to drop the paper and cover the other ear as well. Jesu iuva me, it was painful. By the time the chorus was over, my left ear was ringing.

I made it through the rest of the service and greeted my friends now that it was acceptable to raise my voice over the din of the postlude and the babel of other shouting voices. Then I beat it back to the relative silence of my home, where I quietly played a hymn on my new old piano.

And to let my hearing recover in time, I hope, for this afternoon's concert.

But it's nearly noon and my left ear is still buzzing.

But I have to wonder about the hearing of all the members who attend that service every week, and services like it all over the world. Don't they know what that level of volume is doing to their ears? Or are they so used to iPod buds in their ears, surround-sound home theaters, and mega-boost car stereos all turned up to Level 10, that worship at that decibel level is only what they're used to?

More ominously, do they and all the other proponents of big loud worship services think the sound has to be cranked all the way up in order for them truly to worship? Just writing this, I have an uneasy feeling that some pastors and worship leaders would say I'm just being cranky to object to this, or old-fashioned, or worse-- that I just don't want people to worship Jesus.

But that's what I do want. I want people to worship Jesus, the eternal Son of God, who is not hard of hearing and who doesn't need the needle to fly off the sound meter in order to hear our praise. I want us to worship Jesus, the lover of our souls, who receives the sincere songs of our hearts and minds and voices but isn't impressed by the power of our technology.

Kyrie eleieson! I'm reminded of Elijah on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal:

"At noon Elijah began to taunt them, 'Shout louder!' he said. 'Surely [Baal] is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or relieving himself. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.' So they shouted louder . . . . "

We are not worshippers of Baal. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not deaf, or distracted, or asleep. Why do we Christians persist in acting as if we were, and He is?


Whiskers said...

I have been reading your blog for a while now, and while I am not religious, I cannot help but think I would like very much to hear you speak. If you are ever going to be in northern Indiana, would you please let me know by messaging me on ?

You sound like a very sensible, compassionate, and down to earth woman. I really look forward to each new post on your blog.

St. Blogwen said...

You give me too much credit, but if I am ever to be in northern Indiana, I'll make a note to let you know.


Sandy said...

I agree with you about the noise. I have sensitive ears and would have left before I ever sat down!

St. Blogwen said...

I was kind of stuck-- my friends' kid was singing with the children's choir and I had to stay to hear him. Odd-- the kids were the only ones who really needed the amplification-- and didn't get it.