My eyebrow started to get in training for next year’s Olympics when I realised the organist was playing John Lennon‘s ‘Imagine‘. That’s right, the one with the line, ‘Imagine no religion.’ … Then having settled down again to talk with the people next to me in the pew, my eyebrow sprang into action again. George Benson, but sadly not from his jazz guitar phase. No: ‘The Greatest Love Of All.’ And that contains the line, ‘Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.’
Dave doesn’t reveal where this took place, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility that the organist doesn’t share the church’s faith and was having a private joke. Of course, it’s equally likely that they just liked the tunes and wasn’t really thinking about the lyrics. Either way, Dave is giving us an important reminder that even the ‘incidental’ music in a service of worship is important. I wouldn’t want any congregation of mine singing along to the appalling ‘Imagine’ before the service began.
…there is a real danger that our society is losing the vocabulary to express grief in a meaningful, realistic way and at the same time retain hope and joy in the face of death. My experience is that Christians are often no better at this than those of no faith, sometimes attempting to make the funeral an occasions for an enforced jollity that leaves no room for sorrow to be articulated.
My worst experience in this respect was of having been told that there would be some music from a CD at the close of a service in the crematorium, only to discover after I had said the Benediction that what was played was Monty Python’s ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. There can be few who are bigger fans of Monty Python than I am, and for my money ‘The Life of Brian’ is their best work. But whilst it might be funny at the close of a film, it isn’t a song which has any place in what had been a service of Christian worship.
[Incidentally, David is quite right in his dislike for 'My Way' at funerals, at least if they are Christian services. It would be entirely appropriate for followers of Ayn Rand, of course. It's hard to see how any Christian would want it]
Music is a powerful instrument (no pun intended) for framing the context of worship. It should always be chosen with the greatest of care.