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« Worship - "Worth-ship" | Main | Downfall and the Christian Leader »

November 08, 2006



Thanks for the really interesting posts on worship. Two things have come to mind out of reading these.

The first has already been highlighted but I would like to raise it again; worship as a way of life. The Celts were very good at this - with liturgy and prayer for everything from setting a peat fire to milking a cow (ok, no cows in St. Margaret's, at least not that I have seen). They were also very good at worshipping God through creation. When prayer is difficult, God seems distant and corporate worship is hard to 'do' a walk in Richmond park (where I believe there are some cows ......)or down by the river helps me refocus my heart and mind on God. God's creation has tremendous power to remind us of His greatness and majesty. David Adams has written some good stuff on this.

The second thing that came to mind was the link between justice and worship. This is something that I have been hearing about from a few different people lately. I was at a service recently where some of the sung worship was quite 'traditional' and some was a bit like singing the psalms ... 'How long o God....?' It was very powerful. Prayer to God, as part of worship to Him, about the inequalities faced by millions because of poverty, HIV/AIDS, war, oppression..... I also heard Brian McClaren allude to the mportance of this in a talk a couple of years ago and it has stayed with me. Any thoughts?


This is all getting very interesting for me because it's moving into my area of work and my passion in life: sound and its effects on people.

Leaving aside the spiritual for just a moment, sound affects people in four ways:

Physiologically - we have dozens of rhythms in our bodies, from heart beat to breathing rate to hormone secretions to brain waves. They are all susceptible to entrainment (a tendency to fall into step with a larger rhythm). In a nightclub with music at 140 beats per minute your heart rate will accelerate; on a beach the sound of surf will relax you. According to French sound guru Dr Alfred Tomatis, high frequencies charge your nervous system with energy and low frequencies discharge it.

Psychologically - many sounds affects our moods and emotions. Music is the most obvious, and still nobody understands exactly how it does that. Birdsong is uplifting to most, possibly because we have learned that when the birds are singing all is well. Sound from childhood (mother's voice, an old toy) can have dramatic emotional effects on adults.

Cognitively - sound affects our ability to think - especially OPC (other people's conversation). Open plan offices reduce our cognitive productivity by two thirds.

Behaviourally - at its simplest, we move away from unpleasant sound. But there is much more here: think of chants in war or conflict, loss of inhibition during musical performances and so on. Sound can bond communities by reinforcing ritual or other similar behaviours.

Still without leaving the physical domain, sound is essentially vibration transmited through a medium. All matter vibrates, and the laws of harmonics appear to hold from from subatomic level (atoms and particles all vibrate) to cosmic (planetary orbits). I sometimes think of human beings as chords - many different frequencies resonating at once - which may explain a lot of nonverbal communication, and how we form instant likes and dislikes.

Given all that, is it any wonder that spiritually sound is right at the beginning?

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. How the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Gen 1:1) I believe I remember from a Psalm Drummers session long ago (correct me if I'm wrong Richard) that 'hovering' can equally be translated as 'vibrating' - the orginal sound. Anyway, we also also have "In the beginning was the Word". Logos is a sound.

This truth spans so many spiritual paths. The Hindus say "Nada Brahma", which means "creation (or God) is sound". The Sufis, the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Eskimos, the Persians, the Malayans...all have creation myths which involve the world being brought into existence by sound, often a word, a shout or a song.

For humans, music is the most potent sound, probably because it is formed with intention, and possibly because it is our oldest form of communication (anthropologist Steve Mithen believes we sang long before we talked). It is a great gift from God (again a consistent belief in many cultures).

So in summary, sound is powerful; sound affects us in all sorts of physical and spiritual ways; sound is the beginning; and music is for us the most powerful of all sounds. For all these reasons our sung worship is a mighty force - is it any wonder that it opens the door for the Spirit to enter, that it unifies us in body, mind and spirit (or more literally brings us into sync), that it pleases God so much and that it is so downright lovely to do?

With love,


PS Sorry Ali but there are no cows in Richmond Park!

jamie g

Jules, thoughtful stuff and beautifully put.

I'm interested by cultural differences in music. How much of our appreciation is learned and how much is innate? (Our ability to learn to like music presumably is innate.) I guess this also touches on generational differences in musical preference.


Jules, thanks for your post - really interesting stuff! I particularly like the image of logos as a sound. Ali
PS granted, cows are not quite in Richmond park - more Petersham.....

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