Volume 1, Issue 1
February 16, 2009

Bill and Sal arrived just a few minutes late. Bill was moving slowly these days because of a pulled hamstring. It was Sunday night and only a handful of folks were gathered near the front of the small auditorium, talking.

Just before Bill and Sal sat down, Nan nervously stood up and walked to the front of the room, song book in hand. She took the lapel mike and tried to attach it to her blouse. Bill was struck by the awkward moment which at least he and, obviously, Nan felt just then. Both were very aware of their heritage and the lack of women taking positions in front of a congregation where men were present. The words of an older man sternly warning rang in his ears: “Our brother Paul said, ‘I permit not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over a man, but to be in quietness.’ Second Timothy two twelve!”

Nan tried to announce the song number, but the words didn’t come out clearly and she fumbled with the mike. Bill glanced quickly around the dozen or so sitting there: four other males, none song leaders. “I see why Nan is doing this,” Bill thought quickly, “but I also see what she is going through, even worse than I am

Holding the song book up with visible trembling, Nan inhaled as she prepared to lead the song. Bill quickly motioned with his hand to indicate that they all move downstairs. However, it crossed his mind as he did so that it would be very easy for Nan to interpret his meaning as, “Sit down.”

“MAY I INTER-rupt for just a moment,” Bill spoke, a little too loudly at first. “Since we are so small and in such a large area, why don’t we move downstairs and sit around the tables in the small fellowship area. That way our singing will sound better. Please?”

When the dozen or so of them were seated around the table, Bill spoke quietly. “I wanted to share a little about what I just saw. Do you mind?”

Freed by the new location and setting, several people indicated that Bill’s request was fine with them, so he continued. “I believe that we just about shared in a situation which we would later regret. Let me ask a few questions. And, this is not to be casting guilt or condemnation at all; it is a prime opportunity for all of us to grow, so relax.”

“Why was Nan about to lead our singing upstairs?”

Several answered quickly with the same kind of response: “No one else can lead singing.” “John is gone tonight and Nan is a really good singer.” “I can’t even sing, let alone lead singing!”

OK. Second question: “Why do we need to have a song leader? Or better yet, Why does someone have to stand in front of us to lead singing?”

Again, several responses: “John always does that.” “That is how we always do it.”

“Why does the song leader have to be a man?”

“Well, it has something to do with women being in subjection or being quiet in church, doesn’t it? Something like that.” “I don’t know, but we NEVER have a woman song leader!” “The elders never allow women to lead in anything!”

“OK. So, why was Nan about to lead singing tonight?”

“Well, no one else is qualified to do it.” “There are no song leaders here.” “Someone has to do it!”

Bill drew in his breath and offered a brief, silent prayer: “Father, give me wisdom and clarity!”

“OK,” he spoke aloud, “you all agreed to have Nan lead your singing tonight. Please, all of you be brutally honest right now. You, too, Nan. Hold up your hands if you were not completely sure that Nan leading singing was right or OK or scriptural.”

Nine hands rose into the air, including Nan’s. Three or four did not raise their hands.

Several heads nodded in agreement. Nan spoke up, “You are exactly right, Bill. I was going to do what I thought was wrong just to make sure we were able to sing together.”

“Which gets me to my real point, here,” Bill indicated. “What is it that made this all necessary; that brought you to a point of doing that which you were not convinced was right or that you were really convinced was wrong?”

Young Andy joined the now open discussion: “We always have a song leader to tell us what song to sing and to start the song. What else would we do?! You can’t blame Nan!”

“Good observation, Andy. And, by the way, Andy, I don’t blame Nan. This isn’t about blame. And, it isn’t about Nan.”

Jane interjected, “I think maybe the problem here is our tradition. We have a tradition of having a song leader. Is there some other way to do this? Does the Bible say anything about how we are to sing or who is to lead singing?”

“Well, we sing in the car as we travel,” Sal offered. “We also sing at home, especially when the kids are all home. No one leads us there. Whoever wants to sing just starts a song. And we all join in or just listen until we learn the new song and can join in. And, you know what? I have never, ever heard Bill complain or suggest that anyone is usurping his authority to lead his family! In fact, he is the heartiest singer in those situations. You might say singing is spontaneous with us, and everyone loves it, joins in and all become leaders.”

“Jane, you asked about what the Bible says about singing or song leading,” Bill began. “Really good question, because it brings us back to our moorings! We want to do what our abba wants us to do. We want to be what he intended us to be. So, we continually need to listen to what he says and see what he has shown us. The scriptures are our resource, aren’t they? We are told to teach, encourage and warn each other with songs and hymns and spiritual songs. We are told to sing with grace in our hearts unto God. We are told to sing if we are cheerful. We are told to sing with our understanding. We are told to sing to one another. Nothing in the context indicates that this singing is limited to time or place. Not a single word in the New Testament says anything about who leads singing, unless 1 Corinthians 14:26 does. It says, ‘When you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching…” In the Old Testament there were those who were appointed to lead singing in the temple and played the various instruments, but the New Testament is clear that all God’s people are now priests and participants. When Jesus met with those twelve specially chosen men of his for their last meal together before Jesus was arrested, they left to go to the Mount of Olives ‘when they had sung a hymn.’ Who led that hymn? Nothing is said about the leader of it. The fact is simply recorded that they sang together. Where did a ‘song leader’ come from? That might be an interesting study! We know it wasn’t from scripture. Sal mentioned the idea of tradition. Do you think we might be hamstrung by tradition on this thing? We HAVE to sing when we come together, so we HAVE to have a song leader, because we ALWAYS have had a song leader! Many of you don’t even like to sing. I take notice of people. And many of your faces say that you really don’t even like to sing. But, you have this tradition that says we HAVE to sing, so we do it. Do you realize that the same passage in James that talks about singing also talks about praying if you are suffering, calling for the elders of the church if you are sick AND confessing your sins to one another so you might be healed. And how many of those things do we demand of one another when we are together?!”

“I would like to suggest surgery! Becoming hamstrung happens when the hamstring on the back of your leg has been cut. Physically speaking, once that happens, there is no correcting the problem. But, spiritually speaking, with God all things are possible. I think we might be able to get the hamstring repaired if we call God into our situation and appeal to him for surgery. Let’s try this: While we sit here facing one another, whoever has a song that they would like to sing, just begin singing it. If you think we need the song book for the song, tell us the number; but if we know the song, just start singing. We’ll follow. But, let’s sing to one another, OK? And, let’s let that be all we do tonight, except, perhaps, pray, thanking our abba that there were no song leaders here tonight! I think we might find ourselves enjoying our singing. We also might find the Spirit of our abba leading us in the songs that we choose. Abba, please free us from the disability of being hamstrung by anything!”

Amazingly, everyone sang with vigor for more than the usual time, visited with one another long after they “adjourned,” and left that night with encouraged hearts.

Hamstrung – To disable by cutting the great tendon at the back of the hock; cripple; to render powerless or useless; thwart.


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