Attendees at the Archives Retreat October 2 enjoyed discussion and singing at Pine Lake Camp. Pastor Jeremy Deaner explained how the role of music in church has evolved throughout the centuries, and Director of Connectional Ministries Dan Dick discussed how the format and content worship services have changed in the last 100 years. Attendees spent much of the day singing hymns in the style of the era that was being discussed, and got a chance in the evening to sing some of their favorite hymns together.

In the afternoon, Deaner demonstrated the different ways hymns were read and sung hundreds of years ago. One example was called “lining out,” which became common during the era of the Puritans. Instead of the congregation and music leader all singing a song at the same time, the music leader would instead sing one line of a hymn at a time, and the congregation would sing each line back.Deaner also explained that the act of singing in church was also disputed for a very long time. For many years, singing was thought to be too extravagant of a display in many congregations; for example, it wasn’t until 1820 that the Church of England authorized the use of hymnals in services. Even then, no musical instruments were used for many years in some congregations because they were so expensive, and would have been drowned out at outdoor services anyway.

In the evening, Dan Dick outlined elements of a typical worship service in 1910 and compared them to a typical worship service in 2014. Differences included that services in 1910 were more focused on prayer, lasted a longer time, and more community-based. “The things that have been cut are things that actually engage the congregation,” Dick said. “What has been reduced is the congregation’s part. What has been increased is what happens on the other side of the pulpit.” Dick explained that after World War II, congregation size became much more important than it had been in the past. Benefits of larger churches meant more funding for choirs, organs, and buildings, but had downsides, too. “More people means you need to change how people serve and respond. When size became a guiding value, it changed the dynamic of what we could do when we gathered together.” Click here to see Dick’s Power Point presentation. Click here to see pictures.