Conflicts and Tensions in Church Music

One more thing about that Joseph Swain interview in CWR. He mentions three “conflicts” at the conclusion of the chat. I think I see them as more tensions. But yes, in some places, especially on the internet, conflict breaks out. Those involved don’t pay attention to his final word:

  • (T)here will never be a formula for resolving them for all times and places, and that therefore solutions are partial and temporary, to be altered when the situation changes.
  • (R)ecogniz(e) that there is goodness and value on both sides of the conflict.  A little charity can make things a lot better.
  • (Seek) not a total victory of one value over the other, but rather a prudential balance.  A healthy tradition is never written in stone; on the contrary, it is a living thing, like a tree, growing without changing its fundamental trunk and roots.

Dr Swain mentions three conflicts:

  • creativity and tradition
  • inculturation
  • musical professionalism and assembly participation

I wouldn’t disagree with these. Some parishes and communities struggle more mightily with these than others. Other conflicts I’ve seen close-up include pragmatism versus artistry, clergy versus laity, different musical groups within a parish–and not always along the lines of genre.

My pastor once preached on the Sunday after Christmas that holy families are not sinless and devoid of conflict. The difference between a holy family and a dysfunctional one is that the former are committed to working through conflict and aiming at higher shared ideals.

The same seems true of conflict in the Church. There is no chance of consensus around musical matters. But we do share faith in Christ, and a desire to further the Gospel.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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