My first impression of SBC was the weekly combined chapel. I can’t remember exactly why I was there (I wasn’t a student yet nor was I intending to go to seminary then), but I remember feeling as though I had caught a glimpse of what the new creation would look like.
The tempo of the hymn was appropriate and I didn’t find myself mouthing off words in a rush, the music was played by only a piano but with excellence that lead the congregation, and the song leader incorporated elements of different nations into the hymn. Two main languages were used — English and Mandarin at the same time — yet everyone sang with such conviction and gusto that the different languages still resounded as one. Different faces, different skin colours, different backgrounds… But they were one Body of Christ worshipping the same God in one voice.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)
When I joined SBC itself, the experience became enriched with actually knowing the people in the community. Singing together took on a new meaning, as I worshipped God in song surrounded by people whom I knew and love. Songs were mostly carefully chosen and appropriately arranged to reflect the creativity of our Creator God — there was space created for joyful noises and deep lament, for voices by different tribes on top of the lingua franca, and for humans created in God’s image to express themselves and bless others with the gifts of the Giver.
One year after graduating, I greedily lapped up this precious time of refreshing, to join the mighty chorus in a tongue I was comfortable with, and also rejoice in the inauguration of our new principal — a family friend who once carried me as a kid and a scholar-pastor whom is a huge source of inspiration.
The theology of corporate worship is duly needed in our churches today, where the understanding of worship is becoming a personal and consumerist entity — an antithesis of who we are created to Be and Do as worshippers and image-bearers of our Triune God. That said, I deeply appreciate the School of Church Music’s continuous efforts to appropriate music in worship theology. I truly pray we don’t lose sight of good theology and its place in worship. Lord have mercy.