The UK Blessing: The Beautiful People

Churches around the UK have come together to sing a blessing over the nation at this time.

These are the opening words of a YouTube video which thoughtful persons have sent me via email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. It’s a rather lovely song by lots of different singers, their individual voices and videos cleverly edited into one video. In addition, the singers’ churches are all listed. With a few exceptions, they come from the large charismatic fellowships, such as Manchester’s Audacious, Bradford’s Life Church, New Wine, Hillsong, Holy Trinity Brompton, Vineyard, et al. What struck me wasn’t the uplifted arms or professionalism of the sound- I’d expect this from these large churches. Rather, I was struck by the facial beauty of the singers. Almost without exception, those selected to sing were good looking, attractive young people. There might be a number of reasons for this. Younger people might be more au fait with home-recording equipment and those with pretty faces might be less daunted by having their mugs recorded and watched across the world. I doubt that the video’s maker specifically requested that only attractive people participate, yet it’s worth asking why it is the case.

I suspect that the membership of church worship groups partly depends on appearance as well as tunefulness. Now an average sized church of 150 people might have to make do with the people it’s got: if you can play, you’re in. A church of 500 or 1500, however, can be rather choosier in the people it selects to sing on the stage. Worship groups dress in the smartest (i.e. most fashionable) clothes, they are the front-of-house team who set the mood and feature on the publicity. These large super-churches with their professional staff, huge incomes and technical wizardry wish to seriously impress the visitor. A beautiful face, looking and sounding like someone from Top of the Pops, works wonders in this regard. Membership of the Salvation Army is now typical of most churches, being older and grey. Yet the four beautiful male Salvationists from Regent Hall Corps featured in the video could successfully moonlight for Kay’s Catalogue.

Do you think I’m being too judgemental? I enjoyed the song, I did, but the singers’ attractiveness as well as my curiosity about their respective churches, set me a-wondering. Do some churches- do all of us- really prefer to look at pretty faces during worship as much as we do during TV ads? Perhaps this is why I’m decreasingly comfortable with full-scale worship groups leading entire meetings.

The other issue is youth. The odd codger did make it onto the blessing video, but most of the beautiful folk there were young and soft-skinned, unravaged by wrinkles and expansive bellies. Even a lot of straight evangelical churches assume that musicians should be made up of the youngest people, perhaps in a cunning ploy to keep them interested. Yet leading worship is a terrifying responsibility, and not just because all eyes turn to you the time you play a duff note. I’m not proposing that it should be done only by the toothless, the bald and the grey, but the video suggested to me that the world’s obsession with youth and beauty is no less present in the Church of God. Let us not invert one error for another, assuming that age and plainness bestow super piety. But may we, like the Lord, look at the heart, and not like Samuel the outer appearance or physical glory.

Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old. Job 12:12

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30