Center Stage

Tim Schmoyer’s post of a post about worship teams resonated with me. There are two thoughts there; the one I am interested in here is the way we present the worship team. (Although the cross icon really bugs me, too).

I noticed it when I first started attending this seeker-sensitive church. The three or four singers stood across the front of the stage, and sang the songs while making eye-contact with the audience. I say audience, not congregation, because it really did seem like a concert to me.

When I joined the worship team as a musician, I heard one of the singers encourage the rest to make this eye contact, and engage the people. This also seemed weird. It was weird, I guess, because the tradition I came from did things so differently. In that tradition, the worship leader would be close to center stage, but the other singers would be off to the side. The leader would often focus on the audience, but the backup singers never seemed to do that.

It struck me as odd that when singing words like, “we give you glory,” the singers would be looking straight out at the people. Where should they be looking? I don’t know, but whatever you do, don’t look at me!

4 thoughts on “Center Stage”

  1. Two quick thoughts…
    I am guessing that the worship team makes eye contact with the people in the pews in order to encourage them to participate (sing with), not because they are “singing to” the congregants. And one of their roles is to serve as an example, ie, “it is OK to be enthusiastic, emotional, energetic, etc.” Hard to do that from the back of the room.

    I suspect that the cross as a symbol has become dominant because it is simple in design and easily identifiable. I undertstand the concept of emphasizing the open tomb, but what would that “symbol” be? Isn’t any symbol that brings our thoughts back to Christ is a good thing?

  2. The team in front, for whatever reason, does give the restless audience something to focus on. I think I’d just gaze around looking for something to look at otherwise.

    On the other hand, you can kind of see some of the logic behind robes for the choir. It makes everyone the same and takes some of the individual focus out of it.

    I wonder if anybody truly worships, or what that even means, during a song about “giving glory”. It seems that if they were truly, deeply, honestly doing that, whatever happened on the stage wouldn’t matter. But as a non-singer anyway, my impressions are doubtless of limited value.

  3. Thanks for the comments, all. Sharon, it is quite possible that people make eye contact in order to encourage enthusiastic, emotional, and energetic participation. If this is the case, we should probably find another technique, because I don’t at all see this type of activity in the congregation. I’m not saying that’s good or bad — just pointing out that it doesn’t seem to be happening.

    djayt, your impressions are immensely valuable. You don’t sing on stage, so you have the valuable perspective of a participant. What I hear you saying is that singers up front (instead of at the back of the stage) give you something to look at. I challenge you to just close your eyes and sing the song (yes, out loud), instead of looking for something to look at. It might bring a welcome change of pace.

  4. Close my eyes- possibly. Sing- probably not so much. I suppose there’s some thing that singers “get” that I don’t get. I have felt it a few times and wondered if it’s what they’re experiencing on a regular basis.

    The times I’ve felt it, however, were in direct response to what I perceived the leaders to be feeling. Also, I’ve been just as likely to feel it during instrumental passages as vocal. Perhaps even moreso, as I believed those gifted musicians to be offering their talents to God.

    On the icon topic, I think Lenny Bruce (the 60’s lightning rod comic) said something about Jesus coming back and being creeped out by seeing the tool used to kill him everywhere. We wouldn’t brandish rifles at Kennedy.

    While I understand that, I do agree with Sharon that it has somehow gone beyond the literal and symbolizes the whole even though it is only part. The Crucifix seems to do this less successfully, and I understand why we wouldn’t adorn our buildings with that.

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