I went to a retreat for my church's confirmation class this weekend. It was . . . interesting. I can sum it up in one word, in fact: Kumbaya.

I have a fair bit of respect for Kumbaya as a song; it's simple, memorable, multicultural. But it's also wildly archaic, a fact made more starkly evident by its performance in a basement filled with middle schoolers. No hip hop beat behind it, no fuzz guitar, no instruments whatsoever, only a fifty-something man leading a room full of adolescents in an a cappela rendition of, of all things, Kumbaya.

Kumbaya is what you might call a lazy song. Here is the first verse:

Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya
O Lord, kumbaya

That's four words in four lines; one word is two letters, one word is one. That's pretty lazy, if you ask me.

So are retreats without activities, talks without points, worship services without contextualization to an audience made up overwhelmingly of adolescents. We made do with the experience, but it wasn't what it could have been, which to my mind means it wasn't what it should have been.

I read a blog post today that looks at a similar laziness in the music industry. I don't know what company he works for, but what bothers him about the music industry bothers me about youth ministry. We can complain about the ongoing exodus from the church, or we can do something about it. If we don't--well, according to this blogger, it just makes us look like something I'm pretty sure we don't want to resemble.


Anonymous said…
Besides perhaps being lazy, it also strikes me as being fairly meaningless for a group of Midwestern teens to sit around singing a Gullah spiritual. Although the word itself has made its way into mainstream usage, its use is more often derisive than spiritual (most often accompanied by dramatic eye-rolling).

Perhaps prefacing the song with a reflection on the meaning of the word--literally translated as "come by here", would make its use at a Confirmation retreat more appropriate. What does it mean to ask the Lord to drop in where we are and impact our lives? How would we react if we believed in fact that he would or does? Why would we want (or feel we need) him to, and what does our faith tell us about why he would?

Too deep for junior high?
Anonymous said…
Yes. Too deep.
I say go with the hip-hop beat.
Get Knaye to remix.
Anonymous said…
Hi David. You are so right. Reimagining tends to only get noticed in the moments surrounding the death of ministries and programs. We would all do well to dream a bit more and listen a lot more. Thanks for the link.

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