Answer from: Father Bo
Is there ever a bad way to pray? The answer is no. Singing in church is prayer (assuming you are singing about or to God).
Certainly, the Eastern Churches have developed their own styles of musical as people’s prayers evolved over the centuries. Different villages and even different parishes within the same town sung differently. Regions of the world have completely different musical styles altogether. This diversity is beautiful. We no longer sing the songs that were popular 400 years ago, and they did not likely sing the songs that were popular 400 years before them.
Prayer is not and should never be something that is static. Music can not remain the words and melodies of our forefathers and mothers, but rather they must be our present words to God. If we don’t naturally grow and evolve then we are not a living Body of Christ, but a museum piece. The “traditional” songs of today were often the new songs of yesteryear, and almost certainly people back then asked, “Are these new songs appropriate?”
With this natural need for change in mind let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. St. John Paul 2 wrote an encyclical called “Orientale Lumen” [The Light of the East], and in this document, he encouraged us all to carefully maintain our own spirituality and theology. He warned that the influences of other church traditions will water down our unique understanding of God, and if this uniqueness is lost then the whole Church is impoverished. In light of this, I would certainly make sure that whatever new music is introduced into our liturgical space is complementary to our spirituality and theology. Most “Praise and Worship” music is lovely, much of it is scripturally based, much of it likely would fit in fairly well, but this does not mean we should accept everything without due care.
The main “problem” with introducing new music in our Ukrainian Catholic Church is that people have different opinions. Some argue that musical instruments are not permitted in our tradition, because the voice is the perfect instrument that God provided us, and therefore we should give Him nothing but the best. Others point to parishes and communities that do use instruments on a regular basis and with great success, and even the fact that the Bible in the book of Psalms tells us to “play on the Lute and Harp” and to glorify God with the “clashing of symbols”. Arguing about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable is certainly part of our church tradition. The success of new music ultimately comes down to the character of the church community and how it is introduced. New music must be made beautifully and sincerely. Keep in mind however that operatic style might please some auditory pallets, while rap will excite others. Some people relate to music with a good old rock beat, while others mysteriously prefer country music.
I personally think that introducing new music is natural and to some extent necessary, however, it needs to be done prayerfully, beautifully, with pastoral sensitivity and with theological integrity… …and… … in “my” parish… …it should never be in Country nor Western style. (Don’t tell my wife I said that, she likes country.)