Presbyterians: We are one

A Florida megachurch has ended musical style-segregated worship. Hats off to Coral Ridge Presbyterian!

“The church should be breaking down walls, not erecting them. God intends the church to be demonstrating what community looks like when God’s reconciling power is at work. … [A]ccording to the Bible, the church is an all-age community. … The only way to musically communicate God’s timeless activity in the life of the church is to blend the best of the past with the best of the present. … The gospel revolution at Coral Ridge continues!”


  1. Yikes, I’m not sure that this is the best advice for current-day Catholic parishes, in which the provision of different musical forms has been an effort to bring peace. Yes, there is some cost, but a forced unity can be worse than a peaceful diversity. I’ve known of several parishes where new pastors attempted to unify all music and it unleashed the worst fighting and bitterness. In one case, the bitterness has lasted even ten years after the policy ended; feelings are still hurt and anger is still present. The person who enacted the policy cannot and will not show her face in the parish. We should think twice before attempting such policies that threaten to make a slightly regrettable situation far worse.

    Unity is a result of certain preconditions, not a policy to be imposed from the top.

    1. I would say the blended model might work better in Catholic communities that are more intentionally, rather than territorially, gathered. Also in territorial parishes that are fairly homogeneous demographically.

      The typical Catholic urban or suburban territorial parish is, however, a different demographic beast from most contemporary Evangelical communities.

      As a former practitioner of the blended model, I would also say that, once program choices are made according to the criteria the Church provides, the next layer of evaluation should be what I have called “the best of each idiom” (not only in choice of piece but in the offering thereof). I’ve seen the effects of mismatched choices/efforts.

  2. It’s called “Blended Worship” and it works. We’ve been doing it for years at my parish. Chant, Gospel, Hymnody, and “Contemporary” all get along with each other, side by side at each weekend liturgy. There are no choirs fighting for position. It’s a breath of fresh air from my previous parish where the 5:00 p.m. choir did not like or would not talk to the 9:30 a.m. choir. It takes leadership and an understanding that we are -one- parish not, several different ones.

  3. I am proud of Coral Ridge, a pioneer in the church growth movement. And if music is going to cause that much bitterness, that is a sign that the Catholic parish in question has ceased to be a spiritual community and should be shut down.

    1. “And if music is going to cause that much bitterness, that is a sign that the Catholic parish in question has ceased to be a spiritual community and should be shut down.”

      That’s not really possible in Catholic ecclesiology, except in certain limited cases (e.g. national personal parishes consisting of only ethnic group). A parish that is closed doesn’t cease to exist, it’s merged into others.

  4. The truth is, however, that if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is old, you inadvertently communicate that God was more active in the past than he is in the present. On the other hand, if the only type of music you employ in a worship service is new, you inadvertently communicate that God is more active in the present than he was in the past

    I think I would have to disagree, perhaps even STRONGLY disagree with what the author says here. I draw no such conclusion from the style of music in worship, and I would have to be shown some real evidence that there is such an overwhelming number of people who DO draw this conclusion that it supports the foundational argument for such a huge move.

    Don’t get me wrong… I think there are good reasons for not having a musically balkanized community, but to draw the conclusion that the solution is to make all music equally suitable for worship and try to “create” liturgy from that perspective leads to an even worse “EOC” type of approach.

    I can hear it now..

    “But last week there were FOUR traditional selections and only THREE contemporary, so this week we need to have FOUR contemporary and only THREE traditional selections!”

    … and at that point the criteria of what music is more suitable and whether there is music that is NOT suitable becomes lost and the style of the music becomes the guiding factor.

  5. I can hear it now..

    “But last week there were FOUR traditional selections and only THREE contemporary, so this week we need to have FOUR contemporary and only THREE traditional selections!”

    (We’ve not had that problem…)

  6. Gregg, may I ask how equitable styles are in your parish? I can certainly see a situation (or should say, “have seen”) where things are mostly status quo (OCP, GIA, etc) with just a little bit of chant and a few traditional hymns tossed in. So long as the status quo is not upset, things tend to work. Can you offer as an example a “set list” for us to see? Personally, I really don’t like the smorgasbord approach. In a previous position I stuck with a good helping of the soft-rock tunes (out of deference to my boss) but brought out the more traditional music for feasts (any feast, mind you) in order to underline the festal nature of the day, but even then people expressed annoyance at anything they didn’t like, even though everything was done well. These remind me of bi-lingual Masses, they serve only the bi-lingual.

  7. Greetings,

    I think it is a good idea but it has dangers. The dangers are not right away, but a couple of years down the way when the music director, who likes Contemporary music(OR Likes Traditional Music) stops blending as much. Then the token blend, then after awhile the entire church is Traditional Music(Or Contemporary Music). It could be good now, but in the long term it could mean getting rid of one style completely.


  8. We had this discussion in depth on this blog sometime back. The term used then was “mixed grill” liturgies.

    The question is not about the balance of musical styles but whether everyone should be able to identify with at least a part of what is taking place during the service.

    1. The way “blended music” works out on the ground seems to be that everyone will hate at least some of the music. The “mixed grill” metaphor fails because, at a mixed grill dinner, I can avoid the food I don’t like while at Mass I can’t avoid any of the music.

  9. Some relevant empirical questions about which there is probably much opinion but little real data:

    1. My own musical tastes are very eclectic. How wide or narrow is the range of music that people are willing and able to sing? or like to listen to, even if they cannot sing that type of music?

    2. How willing are people to tolerate other people’s musical tastes? or to tolerate other people’s desire to perform musically? There may be a lot more tolerance than we may think. Personally I would be willing to let almost any group or instrument perform at least some of the time.

    3. Personally if all the Ordinary of the Mass (including Creed and Our Father) were sung, especially if sung well by a great number of the people in the pews, I would be willing to let the musicians do whatever they want for the hymns (or Propers). Wonder how wide spread my attitude might be?

    4. Catholicism is unlike most Protestant denominations in that we have a lot of churches and a lot of Masses that people could potentially attend. How effective would we be in keeping or attracting people if we catered to a lot of musical niches (e.g. on a regional rather than parish level)?

    5. There are some people who probably don’t care for music, whether we have it or not. Wonder how many there are and what could make their participation more satisfactory for them?

    1. I’m more-or-less in the same boat as you regarding your third point – the style of the hymns don’t matter as much to me the more the ordinary (both people *and* priest parts) is sung – I would also say that the hymns would matter even less to me if the propers were sung in addition to them. In these (incredibly rare) instances, the hymns just blend in as part of a whole sung prayer that beautifully flows rather than being the main form of music in a largely spoken Mass.

    1. IIRC, Coral Ridge has disclaimed that it’s Reconstructionist but its origins were it seems at least inspired in no small part by Rushdoony et al.

  10. As we all know, music is a very touchy point because it has such emotional power, either directly or by association (e.g., Eagles Wings at funerals). I still think we could avoid the mess by simply insisting on prayerful chant-style (even if not using Gregorian) music for the actual texts of the Mass and a sparing and judicious use of hymns or songs. Since the hymns/songs would be few, one could more readily customize Masses (e.g., the 9:00 am Mass has a Preparation and Communion procession with popular style music, whereas the 11:00 has traditional hymns. Some may even prefer to have the choir offer their gift in those places, because they still outwardly participate in Ordinary and Propers). I just don’t see why we need a rock and roll Gloria and replacements for the Propers.

    1. You said “I just don’t see why we need a rock and roll Gloria and replacements for the Propers.”

      This doesn’t really contribute anything, but I always thought it was funny that the first time I ever heard Latin used for the ordinary at an Ordinary Form Mass, it was by the youth Mass rock group. They did a soft-rock Agnus Dei.

  11. I think Jack’s (#12) 3rd point is correct. In this age of the automobile, it is very easy to parish hop, and people do it. A lot! In my own situation I define myself as a “high churchman” playing the organ in a low church parish (I need the money), where contemporary music is the norm, both hymns and in the ordinary. Can I worship here? Not really. I do my work and worship somewhere”s else. By the same token there are families who drive long distances to attend Mass at this particular parish. I might add that I also agree with Jeffery Tucker. In a large parish, I would like to see a traditional, blended, and a contemporary Mass offered. A smaller parish should go with the worship style that fits most of its people. Finally, is the day of the territorial gone?

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