Saturday, 15 September 2012

Singing in the spirit

While writing some content for my book, I was thinking about the first time I heard "singing in the spirit" in a charismatic church in the 70s.

It was an incredible experience. I couldn't really hear much, sitting up the back, and the songs were all a bit tacky, but then they started this “singing in the spirit” thing. This was the most amazing sound I had ever heard as waves of random harmonies

went sweeping over the auditorium. I couldn't believe that this could be so wonderful and spontaneous! I'm not sure if it was just because it was the first time I heard it, but nothing else ever came close. It tweaked my musical creativity and my spirit simultaneously – truly awesome.

As I moved into charismatic/pentecostal worship leading this became common place and was something you did to bring the "anointing". I learned all the tricks, but I could also just feel what to do, how the dynamics worked, and found it was easy to bring that elusive anointing.

There is a unique dynamic that goes on in community singing - in ALL cultures. People are united by singing together about common themes, which can be spiritual or social. When you listen to and watch these other cultures there is the same freedom to express joy and admiration as christians feel, and there is the same sensitivity to the dynamic. From wild happy celebration to mystical solemn song and chanting. Now some would say its a demonic copy of the Holy Spirit. But I would say its something built into our nature.

The music and rhythms can touch subliminal thoughts and emotions, so in a christian context we have Jesus as our common focus. The sounds are culturally based however, so what would bring a state of ecstasy for Mongolians would probably send your average Texan running from the room screaming.

I would now dare to hazard that its nothing to do with "anointings" but with our innate ability to find a state of joy, strength, unity and ecstasy through culturally applicable, focused, community singing.

Now this doesn't negate our "praise and worship" times, but it takes away the illusion that we have to do it right for God to anoint it and for some reason think He suddenly turns up when it "feels" right or some appropriate climax is reached.

God is always 100% there, in us and with us, so He ain't going to turn up any more than He is already. But its our focus and unity we feel when we sing about Him together. We switch off everything else and allow our spirit and emotions to express themselves in the music. This is the same for all cultures and has nothing to do with Christian doctrine as such, we are just tapping into a common human experience and using it for enhancing our experience and relationship with God.

This is actually great news because we can relax, without any expectation of some mystical experience determining whether the "worship and praise" was anointed or not. We are free to accept Gods presence in and with us all the time, and that our singing together is for us, its for our benefit, it makes us feel good, and makes us feel good about God. Its natural and wonderful without any need for hype and super spirituality.

So back to the singing in the spirit... Its like mystical chanting in many cultures. It can drift and swirl with rhythm and harmony relevant to the culture. A uniting expression that unites spirits and focuses emotions. And its beautiful, freeing, and its something we can use to enhance our intimacy with God and each other.

I'll continue to work through this and comment more on the spiritual side another time,