Going Paperless

Going Paperless

Many of us have made the shift to paperless interactions in the digital age and there are lots of advantages.  Files that are stored in the cloud allow for easy sharing.  We carry documents on smart phones and tablets, eliminating the need to print multiple copies. Automatic bill-pay settings allow us to process expenses without ever having to address an envelope or walk to the mailbox.  

What if we were to go paperless in worship, or at least the music components?  Music Makes Community (MMC)
is an organization that does just that by encouraging paperless singing.  Their philosophy centers on the practice of "communal song-sharing that inspires deep spiritual connection, brave shared leadership, and sparks the possibility of transformation in our world."

In some ways this method harkens back to traditions of call-and-response singing, present where access to education (and literacy) were denied and or before printed hymnals were readily available. Many faith traditions still have cantors who lead song.  The Iona Community makes it a practice to teach song to the congregation at the start of each service and has a wealth of worship music resources at Wild Goose Publications.

Paul Vasile, Executive Director of MMC demonstrated the process in his recent presentation in the UCC Summer Artist Series (recording) and outlined the many benefits of paperless singing:

Singing together is…
     a spiritual practice that is relational. According to the MMC website, “We seek to engage our whole mental, physical, and spiritual attention in worship. Our fully engaged presence is our best gift to one another and to God.”   

     an opportunity for deeper listening. Repetition helps us internalize the words and their meaning. When we look up from a book or screen to see the faces of those near us, we are more likely to breathe together as one and attune ears to the harmony of sound. 

     a way to find a common voice.   Social justice movements have known this for years and often put communal singing at the center of the work.   The physical act of singing unites us and reminds us of our shared purpose.

     accessible and inclusive.  Communal singing is an opportunity to embody hospitality.  Instead of launching in and assuming that people will “pick up the tune and catch on to the words,” recognize that there will always be someone new, and include them by lining out the words and tune.

     integral to faith formation. We know that worship is a path to spiritual development and that the entire experience teaches. Are children's voices welcomed or are they expected to sit quietly until they are dismissed? Paperless singing invites all ages to participate— even pre-readers.  This method is especially appropriate for congregations that are committed to intergenerational worship. Singer-songwriter Rebecca Stevens Walter encourages leaders to make shifts in three elements; story, song, and prayer to actively include children, and music adaptations are a simple first step. 

If you would like to know more, there are two opportunities to experience Music that Makes Community in the month of September. To paraphrase Simone Weil, “absolute attention is prayer.”   So give it a try-- go paperless, and give your attention to one another and to God!



debby kirk.jpg
Debby D. Kirk

Debby Kirk serves as leader of the staff team that provides resources for the work of nurturing disciples of all ages in the local church. Her area of focus is youth ministry. Contact her for:  Faith Formation Communities of Practice Confirmation ...

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