1. Wilson-Dickinson. Despite the short 150 years of European Christian missions in Africa, a dramatic increase has been witnessed in the numbers of population converted to Christian religion (Wilson-Dickson, p. 170). Such achievements have been made possible by integrating European Christian procedures into the everyday activities of the locals. A key factor in African lifestyle, music accompanies nearly every daily routine of African people.
Incorporating African elements into European religious music is beneficial to corporate worship since the latter becomes more understandable for people (Wilson-Dickson, p. 171-172). For example, a 1956 hymn-book Africa Praise features African songs to English words that help narrow the gap between the two cultures.
Striving to incorporate African and European elements into the liturgy, missionaries encounter a whole range of difficulties, from linguistic to material ones. Successful efforts at uniting the best from the two musical traditions have been undertaken by Harcourt Whyte (Wilson-Dickson, p. 175).
Adoption of a new tolerant attitude to African music and its incorporation into European liturgical practices has helped to make African people more aware of Christian values. As Pope Paul VI remarked, Africans no longer need European missionaries and can become missionaries to themselves since the new style of worship allows them to discover Christianity in harmony with their traditional culture (Wilson-Dickson, p. 176).
With the introduction of Christianity to African people, there has emerged a variety of independent churches that, although based on the teaching of Bible, stay close to local customs in their religious practices. They emphasize spontaneity and improvisation in worship, appealing to the rhythmical and emotional side of human nature. A powerful sense of participation is achieved which brings unity and peace to the congregation (Wilson-Dickson, pp. 178-179).
2. Roberts. According to a recent survey, one of the biggest challenges for a church musician is handling the diversity of different music styles during the community service (Roberts, p. 45). Educated in classical traditions, professional musicians often reject popular or ethnic music as improper for worship.
Having dedicated decades of their lives to careful study of the most intricate and refined masterpieces of the world’s classical music, such musicians feel that the very core of their beings is threatened by popular religious songs, or PRS, since they seem too primitive compared to classical works (Roberts, pp. 48, 51-52).
Along with understanding the aforementioned position, it may appear reasonable not to dismiss PRS from church musical practice. According to a concentric model of created by Edward Schillebeeckx, there exist three layers of culture depending on the time span. The outer circle represents transient or “ephemeral history”, the middle is more regular or “conjectural history”, and the smallest inner circle is permanent “structural history” (Roberts, pp. 47-49).
In each of those circles, certain works of music exist, either disappearing with the course of time or remaining for the next circle. Therefore, without letting a musical piece into the first two circles, it is impossible to check its value for the last, permanent circle. For this reason the seemingly ephemeral PRS are not to be easily abandoned.
Performing various musical styles in church can sufficiently enrich the professional musicians’ experience and broaden the repertoire of the congregations (Roberts, pp. 56-57). Moreover, variety in church music attracts different nationalities and cultures and promotes understanding among the believers (Roberts, p. 58).
Successful examples of open-mindedness in church music are seen in performing so-called “world music” and simple folk style songs that unite people in peaceful meditation and help avoid division and conflict (Roberts, pp. 57-63).
Roberts, William B. (2009). Music and Vital Congregations: A Practical Guide for Clergy. New York: Church Publishing.
Wilson-Dickson, Andrew. (1992). The Story of Christian Music. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.