St. Louis, Mo - It is Sunday morning at Calvary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Mark Treadwell and his wife Amy with their three kids are usually early for worship that begins at 10AM. For Mark and Amy, Calvary Baptist is special to them. Both were raised at the church, and they grew up together in Sunday School through youth group, young singles, and finally into the young married couples class. While the Treadwells have always felt at home at Calvary Baptist some things have recently changed that are making them and others in the church feel a little "uncomfortable" and "left out."
The issue centers mainly around the churches new praise band leader, Perry Kirkwood who began work at the church in January of 2008. Kirkwood replaced the former director, Aaron Milner who had served in the position since 1980. Under Milner's direction the church began to incorporate more contemporary music styles, adding in drums, percussion, more choruses and easy pop-like worship songs. Treadwell remembers it well.
"I was like 12 or 13 when brother Milner came. He caused a lot of stir in the church at first, but I really liked it. I remember the first Sunday we didn't use hymnbooks and were able to look up on the projection screen, which was a whole lot easier. After that church didn't seem so boring anymore, I actually kind of liked going."
But since Milner's departure and Kirkwood's taking the reigns many people around the Treadwells' age have been voicing their displeasure with some of the worship style changes and musical choices.
"We don't sing any of the old-timey praise choruses anymore," said Treadwell. "I remember when we'd sing Lord, I Lift Your Name on High, and As the Deer, but we're not doing any of those kind of songs anymore. And we haven't sung anything from Petra in months now. All we're doing now is these crazy new songs that sound like they were written by heavy metal bands."
Others at the church are expressing similar sentiments along with Treadwell. Eric Hinson, another middle-aged life-long church member commented to TBNN.
"I suppose maybe the young people like this stuff or something, but I want my old-fashioned praise songs back. I mean, there's some songs where we don't even use a synthesizer anymore, it's just electric guitar, bass and drums."
Many have become concerned that this latest trend in worship styles will lead to divisions within the church. Various committees have met to discuss the issue. Two possible solutions include having a "blended service" which will incorporate both old and new contemporary worship styles, or the possibility of having two services each Sunday with an early service being for more traditional contemporary worship and the later service for more contemporary contemporary worship. But it seems that every moment a solution is delayed tensions grow only deeper over the issue.
"I can't bear the thought of leaving Calvary but it's getting to where we just can't worship anymore," said Treadwell. "If something doesn't change soon we'll have to start looking at some more traditional churches that play good old-fashioned music like Amy Grant and Sandi Patti."