Instruments in Worship

To start off our discussion line in the “Words” category, how about an informal survey?  This category will contain regular posts intended to stimulate constructive conversation on various topics.  Every once in a while, though, I’d like to use this conversation area to share a little information about the music in our churches, using a group of similarly-themed questions as our base.  For our first topic: What is the role of instrumentalists in your worship services?

While some of our brothers and sisters in fellow Reformed denominations have no instrumental accompaniment in worship, I would venture to assume that piano or organ accompaniment is commonplace in URC churches.  How many organists and pianists are there in your church?  Do you rotate fairly evenly, or is there one primary accompanist while others fill in as necessary?

How often do you accompany the congregation with multiple instruments playing together, such as piano and organ?  Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on this arrangement—problems you have noticed, solutions you have found?

Do other members in your church actively play instruments as well, such as brass, woodwind or strings?  Are these musicians also involved in worship?  How do you incorporate them into the congregational singing or service music?

Since this is our first discussion, I’ll keep the post length to a minimum.  If you can, I would love it if you would take a few moments and share your responses to these prompts.  A little later on, I’ll give my own answers to these questions as they relate to my home church in West Sayville.  I hope to hear from you soon!



3 Responses to “Instruments in Worship”

  1. 1 Daniel Hyde February 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Great blog! I’ll be passing it onto the congregation here in Oceanside, CA.

    We have four pianists in the congregation and we borrow three others from local congregations [Escondido URC and New Life PCA in Escondido]. I am in charge of scheduling and rotate them in the AM/PM and special services.

    In the past we’ve also utilized guitar for accompaniment, especially with well-known hymns.

    • 2 Michael Kearney February 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Rev. Hyde! Seven pianists to accompany worship is definitely a blessing–one we would love to see here in West Sayville. God’s blessings on you and your congregation as you continue to worship him!


  2. 3 Michael Kearney February 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Some time has passed since I posted this first survey, so, as I promised, here is the “data” from West Sayville Reformed Bible Church.

    We have four primary accompanists in our church. Two of them (myself included) can play either piano or organ. There is also a third pianist, and an organist who serves as the primary accompanist. We work out the scheduling among ourselves, taking into account vacations and such. For as small a number of musicians as we are, this system works smoothly.

    Until a few years ago, West Sayville’s services were accompanied by either organ or piano, but not both. Then one of our organists (Nancy Almodovar) and I tried the combination one Sunday, and found that it worked well, especially for the morning services. (In my experience, piano accompaniment seems to fit better during our smaller evening services.) The only real problem with these duets is that due to the nature of our sanctuary, we can’t have eye contact for most of the service. And depending on our levels of energy (or coffee consumption) on a particular Sunday morning, our ideas of the proper tempo can vary widely. Still, the piano and organ duet accompaniment has worked out well enough that we try to incorporate it into a service at least once a month.

    Despite our relatively small number of organists and pianists, West Sayville has been incredibly blessed with a large number of soloists to accompany us on special occasions. We have a guitarist, a flutist, a clarinetist, at least one saxophonist, two trumpeters, and even a violinist. During Thanksgiving services, we’ve had them accompany the congregational singing, but this led many people to complain that they couldn’t hear the soloists well enough. Incorporating them into the service music is a much better idea for us. One of the most successful instrumental arrangements we’ve used is a simple hymn tune broken up into four parts for the various soloists. Thankfully, our musicians are obviously wholehearted in their efforts, willing to set aside extra time to practice Sunday after Sunday. And their diligence shows.

    To God be the glory!


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