Hearing From Our
Hearing from our leaders is a new series of articles where SAWM writers will sit with Salvation Army leaders around the world and discuss contemporary worship in their settings. In the SAWM, we often hear from accomplished worship leaders, but this series is aimed at hearing from some of our top level divisional and territorial leaders around the world and hear their thoughts and perspective on the place of contemporary worship in the Salvation Army. In this first article, we speak to Commissioner Floyd Tidd, the Territorial Commander of the Canada & Bermuda Territory.
SAWM: Commissioner Tidd, you have led The Salvation Army around the world. When you hear the words “contemporary worship music,” what comes to your mind?
CT: A few things actually. I think that the immediate default often is the sense of contemporary worship, in a lot of people’s minds, means that there are a couple of guitars, a piano, a drum kit and a few singers. I would step away from that immediate response. Worship music for me is a sense of what is there in music and word that actually resonates with who I am, and the world in which I live today, and connects to God that I am worshipping, rather than a style or instrumentation. It’s that, of the world I live in, what is it in the music and words blended together that actually make me connect the world I live in and the God I worship.
SAWM: When you hear the words “Salvation Army contemporary Worship music,” what does that evoke in you?
CT: What that evokes, in my mind, is a great sense of potential. It’s a great opportunity for us. We, as a movement, have been gifted with music and we have always been a contemporary music worship movement even from the earliest days of using, or taking, contemporary tunes and putting words that give the message of gospel, words of devotion, against those tunes. Instrumentation that was contemporary to the day was part of our worship and embraced from the beginning within The Salvation Army. I think we stand on the brink of an opportunity to embrace all of that even further.
SAWM: Do you think that the Salvation Army has done a good job of being current with the times and changes in worship music, while still being “Salvation Army?”
CT: I think we have struggled in this space. The sense of “what does it mean to be ‘Salvation Army’” is a question in itself, let alone “what does contemporary worship music look like?” In a similar manner to the broader discussion of “what does it look like to be the Salvation Army in the 21st century,” the question of “how does The Salvation Army worship in the 21st century,” worship [music] is a part of that. I think we are coming out the other side of that. I think there is a sense of the giftedness that we have in music and the opportunity is created for us to worship in a contemporary mode that still allows us to be The Salvation Army.
SAWM: Do you find in the different parts of the world you have been in that the progression is moving at a different pace?
CT: Yeah, I think it is at different paces, not only in different continents or countries but within different places in a single territory. There would be places in Australia that would be, in some cases, further along in the development of this. There would be places in Canada that are further along than other places in Canada. It will come at a different pace in different places. I think that there is a wave that comes and it is important for each worshipping community to find its pace that doesn’t disrupt and create disunity , but actually continues to move towards effectively creating a worship experience for people to be part of where they can connect to God and hear from God.
SAWM: When you have noticed that contemporary worship has been led well, what have you noticed? What are the things you have taken away when you have thought it was done well?
CT:: I’ll use a phrase that I have used when I have talked to worship leaders. I’ve said to them that “you have led us past you into the throne room.” When I sense we as a congregation gathered have moved into the throne room, there is a sense that we are in the very presence of God. That is, when it has been done well. In some cases, the performance hasn’t been great but at the same point in time, the experience of entering the throne room has been phenomenal.
SAWM: So it’s more about the engagement of the congregation rather than the musical elements necessarily?
CT: I think that when music and worship leaders are sensitive to whether or not the people they’re leading are following, then I have a worship leader rather than a performer. Worship leaders, by definition, means that there are followers. So is the congregation following? And if they are not, asking “What is it that I am doing as a worship leader that is preventing them from following?” because the aim is to help people step into that throne room.
SAWM: The Salvation Army has a rich history of sung theology. We have a songbook full of songs by generals, commissioners and soldiers that are specific to The Salvation Army. It seems that we are not writing anywhere near as many of our own songs anymore. Do you think that is important for us to do, or should we just keep using the best of what is out there for our worship services?
CT: I think it is a combination of both. I think we have been really blessed in the Church universal with the gifts that God has blessed people with, to write, to compose pieces of worship, that help all of us in our worship. By the virtue of media in which worship music is globally shared, I think that we want to embrace that. I do think that we need to check and make sure that it has a good, solid theology. As we talked about, part of our worship is a sung theology, so we want to get that right. I am really encouraged by two things. First, when our composers take some of our Salvation Army songs and give them a fresh melody.
This does a couple of things. Not only does it make it contemporary, but it also makes me think of the words I am singing. Because the melody is different, I am working a little more at engagement with the words rather than it being by rote. Fresh melodies give fresh perspective on the words. Second, I think that we need to continue to encourage writers, Salvation Army writers, who understand a Wesleyan Salvation Army perspective on Scripture and the world in which we live, and the mission that is uniquely Salvation Army.
One of the pieces in our songbook, as I look through our songs of the past, that I think may be lacking from our worship experience, is there have always been a number of reflective songs and there have always been a number of songs around carrying out our mission rather than everything being focused on telling God how great He is. There should also be this surrender of ourselves to God to be blessed that we might bless others. Saying “God, we are committed to Your mission.” This becomes a sung commitment back to God rather than just a praise of God. There is also that response from us that has always been helpful.
SAWM: A horizontal covenant as well as the vertical one.
CT: It’s like the two sides of the great commandment. Love God, and I think our worship experience does do a fair job of allowing us, and giving us, the language to express our love and our praise to God. But the other side of that great commandment was this mission in the world of loving others. So we also need a sung theology and a worship experience that is a response to the word of God, that is about our commitment to Him, that is about how we are changed.