Saturday, March 20, 2004

A LESSON IN COUNTERPOINT

During an independent study of music theory in high school, I learned the importance of counterpoint in good musical composition. For centuries composers have captured the ability to superimpose two or more melodies into a single harmonic pattern without losing the linear character of a composition. Whether it is the organ music of J.S. Bach or the black gospel music of today, rhythmic and melodic counterpoint creates essential harmonic texture.

Just last week, my son watched a videotape featuring a song, "The Lord is With You," a moving proclamation and counterpoint between Gabriel, Mary, and Joseph. It was just one of many beautiful settings in a Passion play--The Glory of Easter--which focused on the belief that we reflect God's glory and that Christ came to give us back our heart, fully alive, and set us free. Free to worship Him.

The Lenten season was once a time in which our family was actively involved in this Passion play alongside three to four hundred other children, youth, and adults. In the course of six weeks, the cast and crew spent hundreds of hours weaving their talents--instrumentalists, singers, actors, designers, carpenters, electricians, painters, costumers, graphic artists, teachers, technicians, et al. All branches connected to the same vine experiencing the reality of fellowship.

A musical play of this scope always employed the time, talent, and energy of hundreds. And over 4000 people typically witnessed the Passion play during Holy Week. Surprisingly, after more than a decade of creating an opportunity for people to serve, a decision was made to discontinue this ministry.

Sadly, many lay people remain unemployed, that is, in the ministry of their church. Churches often hire the professional to assume the work of the laity, and in doing so promote a myth of excellence. Author Rick Warren suggests that it would be better to "involve thousands of regular folks in ministry than have a perfect church run by a few elites." Unemployment lines were not present in the first century church.

Ironically, it was the people least involved--the professional ministry team--that recommended discontinuing the lay-employed Passion play. And in fear of once again being called hostile by a member of that team, I have been ambivalent to express my disappointment in their decision until now. I hope the displaced workers have found new areas in which to invest their time and talent.

These are not intended to be cynical words or an expression of superiority on my part. However, I think this concept of counterpoint and its application to the church is worthy of emphasis. It's a partnership--a superimposition of complimenting elements into a single harmonic texture--among lay people and clergy working together. After all, we are all ministers.

I guess this year I'll just go see Mel Gibson's film and listen for the orchestral counterpoint.

REFERENCES
"Waking the Dead" by John Eldredge
"The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren
"The Purpose-Driven Church" by Rick Warren
"Partners in Ministry" by Jim Garlow
"Life Application Bible"

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