by William Himes
I hate to mention Covid one more time, but no one is exempt from its effects. Everything we knew as normal came to a complete stop.
Looking for the upside, the absence of routine activities and interactions caused us to appreciate their importance and how much we missed them. For example, one of the most basic things I now miss within our faith community is just a simple hug: wordless, brief– yet such a powerful expression of love and support.
But looking at the downside, while we may cherish the things we miss, there is also a danger of settling for a ‘new normal,’ complacently settling for a reality lacking value and meaning. (Why should I return in person to Sunday worship when I can tune in virtually, whenever I feel it’s convenient? I think I like having more free time to myself. Besides, things seem to be going just fine at my corps without me.)
As a lifelong musician, I believe in the importance of music in worship. I long for the day when live music can return in all its fullness. Here are three reasons why I believe music is essential:
Music is inclusive. Our music brings together the widest range of people, involving both genders and all ages, in one united endeavor. Proponents of church growth know the most effective way to meet its flock’s spiritual, emotional, and social needs is through small group ministries. To be effective, groups should be large enough to be inclusive yet small enough to meet the individual needs and work toward a common goal with a fulfilling purpose.
When I think of the songsters I sing with, the band I play in, and the beginning instrumentalists I teach, it causes me to think, “Where else in life do I have this kind of opportunity for regular and meaningful relationships ranging from eight-year-olds to senior citizens?” Outside of corporate worship, music is the most broadly-based small group ministry we have. For me, music has provided a lifetime of opportunities for personal ministry.
Music inspires us. Just think of what music has done to expand our spiritual insights: Music has opened the door of memory to learn and retain spiritual truth. Scripture verses and prayer choruses learned as a child in Sunday school have been imprinted in my memory,” hidden in my heart,” providing a lifelong reservoir of spiritual assurance and truth. When words have failed me, music has often picked up the slack, wordlessly providing an expression for the deepest feelings in my heart.
Music enriches us. Of course, singing and playing demand concentration, teamwork and faithfulness. But when our music is committed to God, we can experience the joy that comes from contributing to inspiring worship and personal blessing. This ministry requires a sacrifice of time and talent. But when we consider the One for whom we direct our musical offerings, we are reminded of the words of King David: “I will not present to the Lord my God burnt offerings which have cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)
William Himes earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Michigan, studying composition with Leslie Bassett and George Balch Wilson. For five years he taught instrumental music in the public schools of Flint, Michigan, where he was also an adjunct lecturer in low brass at the University of Michigan-Flint. With over 130 instrumental and choral publications to his credit, his music is continually featured on international broadcasts and recordings. From 1977 to 2015, Bandmaster Himes served as head of the Music and Gospel Arts Department of The Salvation Army’s USA Central Territory, and in that capacity, he was also the bandmaster of the celebrated Chicago Staff Band.