Can you guess the approximate time period when this photo was taken? Was it in the 1940s? The 1980’s? Or sometime within the past several years?
If it wasn’t for the four-color processing, amplification speakers, bright lighting, and air conditioning vents, it probably could have been taken in 1880, couldn’t it? Well, I don’t know if grand pianos were that big yet in 1880 or not… but you get my point, don’t you?
This is not your boomer father’s seeker-sensitive contemporary church, is it? In fact, it’s so non-contemporary that even though this photo was taken about three years ago, there are no JumboTron video boards in the sanctuary. A massive pipe organ had just recently been installed, towering over the chancel area where the choir is standing. And – gasp! – did I just say, “choir”? You mean a North American church still has a relic like that?
Now, before you fear I’m going to launch into a tirade about classical corporate worship versus contemporary worship: relax! You already know my thoughts on that subject.
Instead, I’m actually using this photo to do something I rarely do: advertise. But I’m not making any money on this. I’m advertising our Chancel Choir’s Eastertide Festival Concert this coming Sunday evening. For those of you reading my blog who live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, I’d like to invite you to attend this special service celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the cornerstone of our faith.
In case you haven’t already figured it out, this is a photo taken inside the sanctuary at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, near the town of Highland Park and the Dallas neighborhoods of Turtle Creek and Oak Lawn, just north of downtown Dallas. Originally built for the congregation of Highland Baptist Church in the 1930’s, the structure has been remodeled and brought to code by Park Cities Presbyterian, which bought the facility from the Baptists in 1992.
I’ve been attending Park Cities Presbyterian for the past ten years, and have been a member of the choir for the past four. Concerts like this Sunday’s Eastertide Festival represent the philosophy that governs the doctrine and programs of our church: the glorification of God. If you attend the Eastertide concert, you will not be entertained as much as you will be led in Trinitarian worship. That is, the focus will not be on you as an audience member, but on God and, specifically, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to save us from our sins.
Sound counter-cultural? Good – because it’s supposed to be!
This Is Intentional Church
The music you will hear has not been selected because of its popularity or ease of singing. It has been chosen because of the way it fits into the overall Easter story, as told in the Bible. Some of it will be contemplative, some of it celebratory, and most of it convicting. Remember, this music isn’t for you as a consumer. It’s to assist you in worshipping God, with Him as really the only audience. Your enjoyment of it will be a nice bonus.
Ahh, yes: enjoying classical music...! For some people, classical music remains an acquired taste. Others have been so indoctrinated by pop culture that masterworks by Bach, Handel, and others can be positively confusing. But for people who can appreciate our need to offer our best to God, you can’t deny that the mathematical structure and exegetical texts in the finest music represent a superlative contrast to simplistic, saccharine sounds and lyrics most closely associated with today’s transitory culture.
Personally, I’ll admit it: I don’t like all of the music we’ll be singing this coming Sunday evening. But I value it all, because even if the tunes don’t appeal to me, they’re of a quality which, in the music world, objectively ranks quite high. And the text of each piece relates crucial doctrines of our faith in ways a lot of ordinary choruses don’t.
Some people may say that’s being elitist. But drawing distinctions between the common and the extraordinary differs little when we're recognizing the deity of God contrasted with His creation.
And the fact that God desires fellowship with His creation and invites us to worship Him, should stir within us a humble desire to recognize who He is, and who we are.
Listen For It
One of the pieces we’re singing Sunday, Chandos Anthem No 9 - O Praise the Lord With One Consent by Handel, requires the choir to soften our voices to silence as we continue to sing one note. If we do it properly, you'll be able to note the imagery of raising our voices in praise to Heaven as we literally sing “to Heaven our voices raise...” But instead of only singing words about it, our voices trail off, evoking the floating of our praises up through the atmosphere to God Himself.
If you come this Sunday, listen for this part. It’ll sound weird at first, but when you realize how appropriately Handel crafted his score, maybe the rest of the music will fit into place for you as well.
After all, good news travels fast - and up!
Park Cities Presbyterian Church Sanctuary at 7pm
at the corner of Wycliff & Oak Lawn