Singing in the first person: on “I” and “we” in worship

Posted: 19 Mar 2015 11:52 PM PDT
Recently I went along with a friend to a Hillsong worship service. I was reminded again that one of the distinctive marks of Pentecostal worship isn’t just the style of music but also the prominence of the first person singular. In mainline Protestant worship, the prevailing trend has been to replace the worshipping “I” with the communal “we.” The “I believe” of the creed is changed to “we believe.” The newer hymns are all about “our” needs, “our” lives, “our” relationship to God and one another. When older choruses are sung, the pronouns are often updated to reflect the plural preference. I have been in a service where the deeply personal Geoff Bullock song, “The Power of Your Love,” was amended, from:
Lord, I come to You
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace that I’ve found in You
And Lord I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love.
Lord, we come to You
Let our hearts be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace that we found in You
And Lord we’ve come to know
The weaknesses we see in us
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love.
Now in principle there’s nothing wrong with either “I” or “we” as far as singing to God is concerned. And the good Lord is probably long-suffering enough to figure out what we mean when we sing a line as daft as “the weaknesses we see in us.” Let’s face it, where hymnody is concerned, the Christian church will only be saved (if it is saved at all) as though through fire.

But I’m sceptical of the assumption that “we” is somehow the more Liturgically Correct word to use – as if the believers who turn up to church on Sunday morning cannot be trusted to remember that they are worshipping in a community. The whole thing smacks (if you’ll pardon the dirty language) of socialism. Are the clergy anxious to make us ever-mindful of our communal loyalties, as if they knew deep down that we would all rather be worshipping on our own at home?



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