Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Still dwindling after all those years

Today in the Church Music Quarterly I read this:
During this period there have been vast changes both in the social and religious life of the country. Church-going has shown a serious decline and with it has come a big fall in the membership of church choirs ... People will not join the choir because it makes too much demand on their time.
It is useless to pretend that all is well, with dwindling congregations, choirs in danger of collapse, and many potentially keen young [people] being lost to the Church. And it is untrue to say that nothing can be done, for it has been proved again and again in hundreds of parishes that public worship can be vital and can still meet the needs of the day: and further, that good music, though not an end in itself, is a powerful means to that end for which all should be striving - the greater glory of God.
This was written by Sydney Nicholson, founder of the Royal School of Church Music - in 1943. Two things strike me - the obvious fact that it could perfectly well have been written last week, and the slightly less obvious one that life, apparently, went on while the whole world was engaged in a war which must have been removing choir men with depressing efficiency.

When I was a child growing up in a city (Glasgow) where bomb shelters and land-mine-destroyed tenements were my adventure playgrounds, I couldn't imagine how during the war anyone ever did anything except worry, mourn and cower in windowless cupboards (apparently my parents' favourite refuge during an air-raid, though as said cupboard, or lobby press, was in a top flat, I shudder to think what might have happened to them) Obviously they thought there was hope, or I wouldn't have existed at all. Is there, then, the same hope for the church?

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