Coming out of lurkdom w/a question

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Puritan Board Freshman
This probably should be posted on the music forum but I need some informed opinions and thought this would get the most viewing.

First, let me introduce myself - I'm Sue Scott (no relation to Susita!) from Ohio. I've been newly Reformed over the past several years, starting during the years we hsed our daughter. My husband and I were delivered from a charismatic church that went bad and are now members of a PCA congregation which we love.

Here's my question:

I belong(ed) to a civic choir which specializes in sacred classical music. We began rehearsal for our spring concert Monday evening and among the sheaf of music we received was "The World Beloved, A Bluegrass Mass". Sounded interesting, but I got a shock when reading the lyrics - the concluding segment referred to God as "she"!! Other sections had a distinct New Age flavor with one portion describing God as taking form in the "guise of human grace". At the end of the evening I returned the music and told the director that I would be sitting out this concert for the first time in 15 years. My dd and her dh were also disturbed and talked with the director who rather ill-humoredly told them that he would edit out the offending part where God is referred to as "she". They are now sitting on the fence pending more insight and information.

My dd is going to email me the text to study and I am going to have our pastor look at it but I wonder if any of y'all have had any contact with this composition. I spent over an hour googling it and basically came up with nothing but rave reviews, although I did find the cd offered on I also found a picture of the lyricist, Carol Barnett, who looks VERY new-agey, but of course, that is only circumstantial!

Sooo, if any of you out there have any information about this I would really appreciate it!


Hi Sue, so nice to have you here. Thank you for coming out of lurk-dom. I'm not trying to nit pick but I think the first problem I would stumble over is 'Mass'. The 'mass' is a re-sacrificing of Christ's body. We of the protestant side of Christendom don't believe it's necessary for any additional sacrifices. So, if in fact the lyrics include a true 'mass' element, then I would shy away from it.

If the message of the piece is truly God honoring and edifying then I would question the style of the music used to transmit the message. I love bluegrass, but I don't believe this style of the music is sufficient to carry the weight of many of our cherished doctrines. That's another thing to consider.

The third problem you've already mentioned, that of the author. I would be very suspicious about her motive and understanding.

I'm sure there will be some more responses. I know it would be tough sitting this one out but my opinion is that you may very well want to skip this one. Blessings sister.


Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Bob! I agree with you about the question of the Mass, although I haven't before this had a problem with performing classical pieces and even Rutter's "Mass of the Children". Taking part in a Mass is a whole different ball o'wax - our group sang at a wedding mass last year and my dd and I were so weirded out that we both decided never to do it again! This Bluegrass Mass is said to be loosely based on Catholic litergy with the Latin sections acting as more or less bridges between the bluegrass portions. The whole thing is very strange and the more I think about it the less comfortable I am with it.

We used to do wonderful pieces, including the Durufle Requiem, with 25 piece orchestras, but our funding has dried up over the last few years (Steubenville is a cultural wasteland - "culture" is spelled with a "k"!!) and our director has had to become more creative in selecting works that don't require elaborate orchestration. Add the fact that he is the choir director in a PCUSA church whose female "pastor" left a year ago and which is now very rudderless and you get a little insight into where the problem is.


Staff member
Sue, welcome.

I sympathize with your predicament. My wife and I used to sing with an open (essentially civic) chorale associated with a Lutheran church. Its focus was on solid music from the reformed tradition: We performed the Messiah several times, as well as Bach cantatas, the Brahms Requiem, etc. We could eagerly participate in good conscience. For performances we were accompanied by a professional orchestra that donated its time. Proceeds went to the food bank, it was a tremendous experience.

But then one year the director wanted to perform some Latin masses and a musical rendering of Robert Frost's poetry. They lost us, and a surprisingly large number of other Christians too.

As he looked through the music, one guy, an amiable retired guy who was an evangelical from a church I'd never heard of summed it up, "I'm not spending my spare time singing about Mary worship or promoting pantheistic star worship (the Robert Frost poem "Take Something Like a Star"). He was hardcore, no doubt, but we agreed with him.

The sad thing was the director was a professing Christian, but he thought we were being just plain contrary. I don't know if the chorale survived after that season.


Puritan Board Junior

Sorry, I don't have anything substantial to add to what these gentlemen have already said. I just chuckled when I saw you type Steubenville. I was born in Canton, and although we moved away when I was just a baby, my grandfather still makes a joke about shortcuts through Steubenville. Anytime we are out and we take a road that he doesn't like (he's old and set in his ways) he says, "Looks like we're taking a shortcut through Steubenville."

So, I'm assuming Steubenville is a little bit "off the beaten path?"


Puritan Board Freshman
So, I'm assuming Steubenville is a little bit "off the beaten path?"[/QUOTE]

Actually, no, it's about 35 miles as the crow flies west of Pittsburgh and is easily accessible via Rte 22. It's a dying mill town where the main interests seem to be beer, country music, NASCAR racing, highschool football, In order to take advantage of anything of a cultural nature we have to drive to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and sometimes, Wheeling, WV. The area is almost bereft of a Reformed presence - there is a mission PCA in Steubenville and we attend a PCA in a town further north of us. Pittsburgh, OTOH, seems to have a wealth of Reformed churches.

Vic - Your choral group sounds very much like mine. I don't know if anyone else beside my dd, sil, and myself are upset with the director's choice. Last spring we performed with Dave Brubeck and did Light in the Wilderness. One selection from that, 40 Days in the Desert, had some very questionable lyrics concerning Christ - I compromised and sang in that concert. I will NOT compromise this time!

Oh, BTW, we did the German Requiem several years ago - it's simply beautiful! The Mendelsohnn Choir of Pittsburgh will be performing it in May - we have tickets and will be treating our dd to it as a birthday present.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate

I really have nothing to add to what the others have said, but I wanted to share with you my own experience. I belonged to a civic chorale which performed mostly sacred music. I finally left the chorale after one of our winter concerts. The music in the concert was not offensive, and in fact, much of what we were singing was right out of the Scriptures. However, I had been asked to sing a solo for a particular secular piece. As I stood up on the stage and performed, I can remember thinking, "Ehy am I doing this? I don't like singing these empty words. I would much rather be singing praise to God." Though I really couldn't find anything offensive, I couldn't find anything positive to say either. There was probably nothing wrong with standing up there and singing the song, but I couldn't do it anymore, so I left.


Puritan Board Freshman
Basically, it's a matter of knowing when it's time to bow out and it usually takes an incident like you've mentioned or what happened at my choir. Although I love the concert experience, the fun of rehearsing has gone away over the past couple of years and although I'm not happy about what has happened, there's almost a relief in suddenly having my Monday nights free. I sing in the choir in my new church ( flames or tomatoes!!) and while it doesn't have the technical quality of the civic choir it's quite good as far as church choirs go, the music is challanging, and most importantly, Christ honoring. I never have to worry about being presented something objectionable.
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