The Worship Quote of the Week for (01/26/1999):

Unison or Harmony?
The psalmist encourages us to "worship the Lord with gladness; come before him
with joyful songs." But what kind of singing is best for praising God? Do we
prefer unison singing with instrumental accompaniment? unaccompanied four-part
harmony? or a free-form "anything goes" approach to offering our songs of
praise? The history of the church offers a wide variety of strong opinions
about the "forms" of our worship in song. Today's WORSHIP QUOTE is from
Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

There are some destroyers of unison singing in the fellowship that must be
rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where
vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in the singing. There is, first, the
improvised second part which one hears almost everywhere. It attempts to give
the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone, and
thus kills both the words and the tone. There is the bass or the alto who must
call everybody's attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every
hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling,
blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the
glory of its own fine organ. There are the less dangerous foes of
congregational singing, the "unmusical," who cannot sing, of whom there are
far fewer than we are led to believe, and finally, there are often those also
who because of some mood will not join in the singing and thus disturb the

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from LIFE TOGETHER, translated by John Doberstein,
Harper and Row, 1954, p. 60.

[Unison or harmony? What do you think? Is it a spiritual question or simply a
matter of personal preference. Even among those who favor the exclusive use of
traditional hymnody in worship, some practice unison singing with one special
verse in parts, and some favor singing in four-part harmony with one special
verse in unison. How does a strong personal opinion factor in when it comes to
matters of corporate worship? Tough questions! Keep singing!]

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Pastor of Worship and Music
Chapel Hill Bible Church
Chapel Hill, North Carolina