I often try to explain to adults why we expect them to sing in worship and why hymns are so important to us as United Methodists. Alas this weekend we have what is called our “Children’s Choir Festival.” While thinking about how we fancy our children to sing, while we adults do not want to sing hymns as a congregation (not all, but enough), I ran across this article by Garrison Keillor on Methodists—and it references music in some funny ways. Maybe you will believe him!
(The following is adapted from an essay by Garrison Keillor)
We make fun of Methodists for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of living offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them. If you were to ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Methodist-less place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Methodists, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!
Many Methodists are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Methodists to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.
I do believe this:
People, these Methodists, who love to sing in four-part harmony, are the sort of people you could call up when you're in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they’ll talk to you. And if you are hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad!
Methodists believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.
Methodists like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.
Methodists believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there.
Methodists usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.
Methodists believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.
Methodists feel that applauding for their children’s choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited.
Methodists think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.
Methodists drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.
Methodists feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.
Methodists are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.
Methodists still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole add too much color. Methodists believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.
And finally, you know you are a Methodist when: It is 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service. You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can. Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee. When you watch a Star Wars movie and they say, “May the Force be with you,” and you respond, “and also with you.”
And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye!