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TONY BEST: Making a joyful noise in the church

Tony Best

TONY BEST: Making a joyful noise in the church

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“If music be the food of love, play on . . .”

This quote from William Shakespeare is more apt now than it ever was, especially in the church.

There is no doubt that as the church changes with the times, so too does the music therein.

This change will be evident today, Easter Sunday, when the notes from various musical instruments will rise to the rafters in Toronto, New York City and Barbados.

Three Barbadian religious ministers in North America, Reverend Peter Fenty, the first black Anglican Bishop in Canada; Reverend David Henry, pastor of St Paul’s United Methodist Church in Brooklyn; and pastor Oral Walcott of the Beulah Church of the Nazarene, also in New York City, all said the music will soar to new heights.

“Growing up in Barbados, steel pans, guitars and other musical instruments were forbidden in church. But in the 1960s Canon Andrew Hatch had the courage to introduce the steel pan in the Anglican Church for the first time. Many lauded it and others criticised it,” recalled Fenty.

“I do support the inclusion of drum sets, keyboards, guitars, whatever we can use to the honour and glory of God I believe is acceptable to God.”

Pastor Walcott remembered “growing up in Barbados where the only musical instrument we had in our church was the tambourine.” He said: “Today we have drums, guitars and other instruments as part of our service in New York City.”

So today when hundreds of worshippers flock to Easter services at Beulah, they will sing lustily as the keyboards, once considered the “hand of the devil”, help to enhance the singing.

Rev. David Henry, pastor of St Paul United Methodist Church Brooklyn said: “When I was a boy in Barbados, a woman once criticised a young man for bringing a guitar to play in the church in Dash Valley in St George.”

“That wouldn’t happen today. West Indians in New York bring a sense of fervency to religious worship and they expect something that’s stimulating to happen when they attend service,” he said.

But the Methodist Church has added something else at Easter services.

“Liturgical dancing will be part of our service on Easter Sunday,” said Henry. “There is a new understanding of worship and how dancing enhances our services.”

After all, he added, The Bible urges us to make a “joyful noise” unto the Lord. Easter and its celebratory mood coming after the solemnity of Good Friday is a good place to do that.”

Tony Best is the Nation’s North American correspondent.