From Memory to Imagination: Reforming the Church's Music

By Doran, Carol | Pastoral Music, May 2013 | Go to article overview

From Memory to Imagination: Reforming the Church's Music


Doran, Carol, Pastoral Music


From Memory to Imagination: Reforming the Church's Music C. Randall Bradley. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8028-6593-9. 251 pages, paperback. $25.00.

C. Randall Bradley is a faithful, experienced musician and teacher who is director of the church music program at Baylor University (a private Christian university) in Waco, Texas. His professional experience includes planning and leading music in worship of many denominations, in widely varied settings and geographical locations, and among people of all ages. While this book never uses the term "pastoral musician," Bradley writes: "Ultimately, all church music is pastoral, because it is a tool for connecting us more intimately to God and to each other" (page 188). The book includes many stories illustrating ways he has discovered the truth of this statement.

The author suggests that the word "from" in this book's title is not intended to express "separation": "[Since] all new ideas find their inspiration in past experiences, a repository of stories is vital to a strong imagination" (page 7). However, Bradley's strong recommendation that we consider these "vital" experiences useful only as historic relics appears to be the one he supports most strongly:

How we deal with . . . elements from the past will form the basis for the upcoming re-formation of the church's music. This music must be stripped down layer by layer. Each layer must be celebrated for what it contributed to a particular time in the church s past, and it must be respectfully filed away in our collective memories to remind us of our rich heritage and to provide evidence of our stories when future generations are curious about the stories on which the present rests. However, our relics must not be given more power than they deserve, for at the core of the music of the church we must find Christ himself revering the sacred symbols of the past, all the while ruthlessly revising them (page 30).

The book is divided into two sections. Chapters 1 through 6 focus on "change" and the church's need to re-imagine the practice of music ministry. Chapter 2 reviews the ways new ideas about being the church, which began to emerge in the 1950s, have changed music making in congregations. …

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