Pentecostal band sings praise of old liturgy

The Brilliance want to connect new believers with ancient traditions

When you think of the phrase “liturgical music”, there is a good chance you’re imagining pipe organs, and haunting, heavy songs, but all that is about to change thanks to US-based band The Brilliance.

The Brilliance is two musicians – David Gungor and John Arndt – and they have been making liturgical music for eight years, largely based around the church calendar. Liturgy is a public way of joining together in shared beliefs. It commonly refers to religious ceremonies or declarations.

“Liturgy just means the work of the people,” Gungor tells Eternity, en route to their only Australian concert. “In Christian liturgy, especially through church services, you have these things that are practices, that are formational to a community, and often for a Christian community it’s forming you to become like Christ.

“Liturgy embodies the sacraments. Usually it’s preparing you to participate in the Eucharist*: you eat it, you partake, you drink, and you become; you are sent out to be the Eucharist for the Lord Jesus.”

But The Brilliance isn’t only making music for those who call themselves “exclusively Christian.”

“Our goal is learning how to become more human.” – David Gungor

“Our main thing is how do we love well. Our goal is learning how to become more human. We think that starts with the ability to listen and the ability to see. In the US at the moment we have a really big problem in that we don’t know how to dialogue or disagree, we only know how to take our pain and transmit that pain to someone else.”

“How do we get to a place where we are able to speak about issues? And can we have art that hopefully some people find some beauty in? And can that beauty point you towards your neighbour, or humanity itself?”

Gungor says that liturgy is experiencing a renaissance among young people, particularly in Pentecostal churches.

He attributes its popularity among young people to the fact that it connects an individual with a bigger story. “Most of the liturgies found in contemporary-modern churches usually are not very sacramental liturgies. Usually they’re based around what is the cool thing now or what speaks to me.

“It’s recapturing a language that’s commonly shared and spoken throughout more than just your tradition.” – David Gungor

“[But] a good liturgy should help form you into a good person … liturgy can be something like a language that can give you insight into tradition, that you’re not just making things up as you go along but you have a sense of rootedness, a sense of who you are. Liturgy helps connect you to the storied belonging of Jesus.”

And more than that, liturgy plugs Christians into a bigger story that our Christian ancestors have been participating in for a long time.

“It’s recapturing a language that’s commonly shared and spoken throughout more than just your tradition. For Pentecostals, their tradition is so young that [liturgy] feels like something really big, while people outside of that [tradition] are going, ‘yeah, we’ve been speaking that for years and years.’

Gungor believes that liturgy in the Pentecostal church will only last if they continue to acknowledge the influence of existing liturgy in other church traditions. “You’ll know if it’s really good and going to last by the humility that’s shown by Pentecostals with it.”

If you’re in Sydney, you can catch them in concert, tonight, January 24, at Newtown Mission. Tickets here.

*The Eucharist refers to a practice in many Christian churches of thanksgiving expressed in eating bread and drinking wine, which represents the body and blood of Jesus.

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