Life Together

For those who haven’t read it, pages 26-30 in Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is both challenging and necessary to keep in mind while we seek to reform the church, wherever we are (which is probably why an extended quote from this section appears in Church Reformed).

This section has been both a comfort and a challenge to me over the past few days. I recommend it to your reading.


I really appreciated that book… but I also need to finish it. I began it earlier this year on @jtbayly’s suggestion. Got to about the last chapter, and then my book seems to have been swept away into a moving box somewhere.

His take on unison singing was fascinating to me.

“There are some destroyers of unison singing in the fellowship that must be rigorously eliminated. There is no place in the service of worship where vanity and bad taste can so intrude as in the singing. There is, first, the improvised second part which one hears almost everywhere. It attempts to give the necessary background, the missing fullness to the soaring unison tone, and thus kills both the words and the tone. There is the bass or the alto who must call everybody’s attention to his astonishing range and therefore sings every hymn an octave lower. There is the solo voice that goes swaggering, swelling, blaring, and tremulant from a full chest and drowns out everything else to the glory of its own fine organ. There are the less dangerous foes of congregational singing, the “unmusical,” who cannot sing, of whom there are far fewer than we are led to believe, and finally, there are often those also who because of some mood will not join in the singing and thus disturb the fellowship. Unison singing, difficult as it is, is less of a musical than a spiritual matter. Only where everybody in the group is disposed to an attitude of worship and discipline can unison singing, even though it may lack much musically, give us the joy which is peculiar to it alone.” . . . “It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together. It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song. Thus all singing together that is right must serve to widen our spiritual horizon, make us see our little company as a member of the great Christian Church on earth, and help us willingly and gladly to join our singing, be it feeble or good, to the song of the Church.”

Good stuff to think about.


Same here. Never have forgotten that part, especially in light of the homeschooling churchers’ penchant for learning four-part harmony and having weekly/monthly singing practice sessions as an all-church function. Reformed worship-music aesthetes would not recognize Reformed/Genevan worship through music five centuries ago, starting with the fact that it was not Psalter-only. The principles were vulgar tongue and simplicity. Meanwhile, the Vatican certainly would have recognized these singing in four-part harmony practice sessions. Love,