Contemporary and Traditional Services at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church


grayscale photo of the crucifix
Photo by Alem Sánchez on

The sound world at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church is quite unique and one that I enjoy very much.  They have two different services, one that features traditional music and one that features a contemporary worship band.  Hearing both services and how they interact was fascinating, because I have never been to a church that had two different services with different music.  Through both services, the pastor’s sermon remained the same which made listening to the music even more interesting.  Comparing the two different services, it is interesting to see how many similarities there are and how the two can both create the same effects, even though they are using two completely different sound worlds.

The services take place in a large auditorium with a large stage in the front.  Throughout both services there is a lot of call and response between both the congregation and the speaker.  The acoustics in this room are fantastic and when everyone speaks together their voices echo throughout the area.  The call and response moments are generally memorized by the congregation, however they also give you a service program with the spoken words written down so even those who don’t have it memorized can participate.

The traditional service was my favorite of the two.  The instrumentation is comprised of a cellist, a pianist and a choir of both male and female singers.  The piano player switched back and forth from the organ to an acoustic piano, depending on what the music called for, which I thought was very effective.  There were also many moments where it was just the Cello and the Piano playing which I thought were very effective at creating a reflective environment.  These moments generally occur during or right after a prayer time and happened during the offering.  The traditional service had a lot less audience interaction than the contemporary service and a lot of the music that was performed was intended to be listened to, rather than sung together.

The Contemporary service at St. Luke’s features a Bass Guitar, two Guitars, Drums, Piano, Cello and 3 singers.  This band plays many Contemporary Worship songs, along with modern arrangements of traditional hymns.  This service had a definite contrast to the traditional service in both setting and sound.  The setting for this band was much more ambient when it was just the band playing, during moments of prayer or the offering.  The contemporary service encouraged a lot more crowd participation than the traditional service.  The audience was asked to stand on several different occasions to sing together with the worship band.  Most of the music that was played followed a pop form, so it was easy for the congregation to follow along, even if they did not know the song very well.  This had the same effect as the traditional service in creating a reflective state, however it was achieved by using a much different soundscape.  The music was not all electric though, and featured acoustic guitar as well, which fit the theme of a normal Contemporary Christian group.

St. Luke’s also had quite a bit of sound that took place outside of service.  In between services music is played in the main hall.  This provides plenty of background noise for all the many conversations that happen in the main hall.  There is also a coffee shop and a daycare center inside of the main hall which also add quite a bit of extra noise.  Like most social gatherings, the noise was very present but incoherent and extra noise was added due to the coffee shop and daycare center.

Having both a traditional and a contemporary service is a fantastic idea, and one that I wish more religious institutions would adopt.  Although it is essential to keep traditions intact, it is also paramount to make sure that progress is taking place and provide a less traditional atmosphere for those who are seeking a more casual religious experience.  By using both a traditional and a contemporary band, St. Luke’s has done a fantastic job of representing two different groups, which boosts attendance from two different types of church-goers.

By Brayden Stonecipher

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