There was an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe last week titled, “Save the church! kill the organs” and it naturally elicited a lot of response from organists and parishioners alike. The author, Jennifer Graham, associated music coming out of an organ to that of a horror movie, and had the nerve to blame organ music for the decline of the church! She even suggested that Harvard University students, who annually drop a piano from a dormitory roof, should drop an organ someday, except for the fact that it’s a two-ton behemoth that would take a crane to lift.
Yesterday at both services at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, Pastor Jeff Lilley commented that church attendance is declining in America and that perhaps it is because we have lost sight of the “proclamation of the Word” which was the heart and soul of the Reformation. If we want to know what will happen to the church in America, we need only look to Europe where weekly attendance averages less than 15% of the population. But guess what —even though a lot of churches have given up their organs — their attendance has not improved.
There’s even a Wikipedia article on church attendance and shows some most interesting statistics. Weekly church attendance varied from as low as 3% of the population for Norway to a high of 75% in Malta. The United Kingdom was pretty low at 14% compared to the United States at 43%.
By the way, there are some health advantages to going to church regularly — like decreased risks of Alzheimers and being happy. Apparently there is a higher rate of church attendance among married couples and those with bachelor’s degrees.
Back to the use of the organ in worship — the organ has the capability of supporting and undergirding congregational song like no other instrument. A former student, Joey Fala, believes that organ music is for everyone, and can offer comfort, refuge and sense of being in God’s presence in today’s spiritually dead world. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to only have to hire one person, an organist, instead of a whole band.
Oh, and did you notice that all the hymns we sung yesterday were all written by Martin Luther? Yup! We started with “Salvation unto has come” (Es ist das Heil) then came the children’s hymn: “Lord keep us steadfast in your word”(Erhalt uns, Herr); the Hymn of the Day was “A mighty fortress is our God” (Ein feste Burg); and the exit hymn was “In peace and joy I now depart” (Mit Fried und Freud).