When I was a young girl I learned a copla (a popular song) from my aunt: Singing I found him; singing I lost him. Since I know not how to cry, I will die singing. I think the copla captures very well the love of music of the Hispanic people. Like the copla, the Hispanic person carries music inside – a melody that is ever alive. With song we praise God, talk about our problems, and express our deepest emotions of pain, despair, anger, and love. Hispanic worship is filled with music. Music is to Hispanic worship as water is to the earth or like air is to human beings.
In Hispanic worship there is Bible reading, plenty of spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and confession, intercessory prayers, and abundant testimonies. But above all, there is music, the highest expression for Hispanic congregations. There is music that precedes the service – possibly an instrumental prelude but, on many occasions, congregational hymns or choruses. With guitars, tambourines, or drums, the offering is consecrated and signs of peace are shared. With song, the bread and cup are shared; and with song, lives are rededicated to the Lord during altar call.
While the sermon occupies a very important place, music forms the context and framework of Hispanic worship. It is the music that remains in the minds and hearts of the congregation as they return home. It stays with us, making very real the company of a God who is not a stranger to our lucha (struggle) but, on the contrary, is in the midst of it. The message is there when we get bad news from the doctor; when we are hurting from broken relationships; when we confront injustice; when we face our mortality. The music is inside us repeating the message that is very much alive and indeed helps us to recover, to stand on our own two feet again, and to continue the struggle with faith and hope.
Even the best sermons are difficult to remember a few months later, but the message of the music never leaves us. Through the songs we have learned, the biblical message remains a constant reality in our lives. For that reason, it is essential that the songs our congregations sing be theologically sound and express the biblical faith that moves us to live according to the paradigms of God’s reign.
The hymns and choruses that are faithful to God’s message help us not only to nurture our faith, but to strengthen our certitude that we belong to one body: the Body of Christ. They enable us to grow into our personal and corporal responsibilities for others and move us to involvement and action. This is why one of my congrega-tions warmly embraced two verses added to the popular chorus Alabar. In addition to the first two verses which speak about John’s vision and about praising God, we sang: God has made great and precious things. God made powerless the rulers of the earth and empowered the poor. And that is why I praise my Lord. God wants to free us from old structures and to give us a new creation in which all people and all nations reach full liberation.
Let us pray that we can continue growing in our faith and in our love for others, so that we may share the redemptive message in word and deed.