I love this song. When I went looking for videos to share I found two very different versions and decided to share them both. Please watch both videos, join in and sing if you like, then we will talk about them.
First the original from the Unity Hymnal.
Now let’s jazz it up a bit.
Same song, but did you feel different listening to each of them? I did. And I like them both, for different reasons. The first version is the way I would sing it in a time of need. When I needed to hear the words and let them soak in. I also like the use of you and we for the other verses. You are unlimited, there are no chains that bind you and yes, we are all unlimited, there are no chains that bind us.
But I also love the upbeat, joyful, let it all hang out version. Don’t you believe you are free and unlimited singing that?
Music is a great teaching tool. It can also give words to deepest anguish or highest joys when the words escape us. But unfortunately music can also be used to divide us.
Most of us probably experienced some sort of generation gap with our parents over music, especially when we were teenagers. Unfortunately churches have also been divided over music. During the 1980’s there was some upheaval in the religious tradition I came out of. There were several issues involved, but one of them was music. Specifically, contemporary “praise and worship” music versus traditional hymns.
I don’t see this as an all or none issue. I love many different styles of music and believe it is possible to use them together in worship. But whatever we do we need to realize that not all people experience music in the same way. In addition to different preferences for style, type and volume of music the same piece can actually have different effects on people physically.
Congregational worship is an area where we need to listen to and honor the experiences of individual assembly members. This is a good place to work on compassion, caring and learning to work together for the good of all – not just saying “majority rules” and forcing those who do not agree out.
For example: If the majority of your congregation is made up of people over 50 years of age who enjoy the old style of “church music” straight from the hymnal, don’t insist on having only that type of music in your meetings with no praise and worship contemporary music and then wonder why most of your younger members are drifting down the road to a different church. Or if the majority of your congregates are under thirty who love loud, fast, “Christian Rock,” consider mixing in some slower traditional music for those who’s personalities are quieter or who are needing solace. Such mixing of styles of music will bring big benefits not only in helping people worship in the way they, at that moment, need to worship, but also as a tool for the worship leaders to help guide their flocks to where they emotionally need to be at any certain time during the service.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the words and sounds of music we don’t notice the energy contained in it. The energy can have an effect on us, even greater than that of the words. Sometimes the energy level of the music helps the words soak into our being. Have you ever listened to slow, soothing music to help you calm down? On the other hand you may listen to something a little more lively to get you going.
We can use that power of music in our personal lives. We can also use it in our churches or other worship assemblies. We don’t want to take people from a rockin’ high energy song straight into prayer and meditation time. It simply doesn’t work. People need a little help making the transition to the more contemplative time in worship and to be able to listen to God. I have known worship leaders who are very skilled at this.
So next time you listen to music enjoy the tune. Listen to the lyrics. Maybe even sing along. But while you do this also feel the energy and notice what it is doing to your mind, body and spirit. It might surprise you.