In a recent issue of The American Organist, the monthly magazine of The American Guild of Organists, Frederick Hohman, of South Bend, Indiana, posed this question in a letter:
Is the death of the Organ Prelude Upon Us?
He referenced three different church experiences where the prelude served only as background music to the ever-increasing din of voices and laughter coming from the congregation as they gathered for worship. Mr. Hohman states, “The removal of the organ prelude from the order of worship in American churches is an ominous and developing trend.” In the following three editions of the magazine, multiple organists from around the country responded to Mr. Hohman’s question. In those commentaries, the sentiment was very similar. The trend in recent years in many congregations is a movement from traditional to more contemporary styles of worship in hopes of attracting younger members. Therefore, in many cases, preludes, offertories, and postludes have been eliminated.
Jo Ellen Kloehn of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, writes, “Worship services are progressively becoming big meetings with opportunities to visit, be entertained, and hear some Scripture and sermon/teaching, rather than focusing totally on God with awe for His majesty, power, holiness, and adoration.”
An extreme effort to move from traditional to contemporary worship comes from Larry W. Hoey, of Sayre, Pennsylvania. The church Mr. Hoey served had hired a consultant to review the church’s worship programs. The result was shocking. The pews were removed and replaced with round tables and chairs where the parishioners could have coffee and donuts during the service. The large cross and altar were removed and replaced by a raised platform for the drummer of the praise band. A screen was added to cover the organ pipes so pictures and hymn text could be projected during the service. Wow!
St. Andrew’s and Emmanuel are places of refuge…places we gather and find peace and refreshment through music, the spoken word, and fellowship. Our worship is a time away from all the demands and stresses of a world full of unrest and tensions on so many levels.
The prelude is a time of preparation, stillness, and reflection, a time to let the peace and love of Christ wash over you as you prepare for worship.