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Hah! Are you familiar with Wesley's Rules for Congregational Singing? "Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy harmony, but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. . . " Are you singing lustily enough? In searching for those on the web (as I'm away from my hymnal where those rules are printed in full) I also found some rockin' Luther quotes on the topic. "I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. . . . My heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music, which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues." ". . . one begins to see with amazement the great and perfect wisdom of God in his wonderful work of music, where one voice takes a simple part and around it sing three, four or five other voices, leaping springing round about, marvelously gracing the simple part, like a square dance in heaven . . ." All this said, I love the hymnody. As a deaf kid growing up in a hearing church, when the sermon was unhearable, it was the hymnal I leafed through for 20 minutes each Sunday morning. When mom would ask the "what did you learn in the sermon today" question over lunch, I was always permitted to substitute whatever I'd found in the hymns I'd read. It irked my sister that I was "let off the hook" sometimes but in other ways, I fed my ability to find connections between whatever I found and whatever they were hearing. Those connections were more frequent than not and that's the wonder of the Holy Spirit at work. However, I'm not a big fan of "signing hymns together" in the Deaf church. While hymn singing does unify hearing people in a common action of worship. Copying the signs from a leader or even translating on the fly on your own from a projected English text is nowhere near the same experience. At all. In fact, I find such a thing actually detrimental to building a sense of "common activity" in Deaf worship. Copying the signs from a lead signer is really the equivalent of hearing a song you've never heard before and trying to sing along as you hear it. Obviously, you're unable to do it well and end up so tied up in trying to catch the meaning of a sign or sentence as it's sung you can't express it with any real feeling. Translating on the fly from a projected English text is the equivalent of reading a song in one language, say French, then trying to sing it in English. It may not even translate well in the first place and you're so caught up in determining the meaning and then finding a linguistic equivalent, you lose all sense of expressing the song. So...your defense works fine for hearing congregations in the Western tradition...and perhaps other hearing traditions as well. I'm not entirely willing to say it's a universal thing though.
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Dec 5, 2009