Here's a hymn called "Circle of Friends," with words and music by David Morstad. The only words that can possibly convey the tackiness of Morstad's music are Morstad's lyrics:
Friends all gather here in a circle.It's all sung to one long stanza, with a repeat sign at the end (to double your discomfort). The final "on" is held for three whole measures.
It has no beginning and it has no end.
Face to face, we all have a place in God's own circle of friends.
Hey there *__! How do you do?
Who's that friend sitting close to you?
Thank the Lord for *__ has a place in the circle too.
Take a look around. Find someone near.
Take him (her) by the hand, say "Glad you're here."
We're together and when we've gone,
God's love like a circle rolls on and on and on.
Wow. Now that's a hymn that stirs up deeply buried (not to say repressed) memories. Squirm-inducing memories of gatherings from which I wanted to flee. People so friendly and welcoming that they scared me to death. A Pentecostal church that some crazy woman dragged me to (all right, it was my mother), and where, even at age ten, I was so struck by a sense of wrongness that I felt physically ill. Memories like that are among the reasons I never, ever, want to be anything but a Lutheran. And now I can relive them at a Lutheran church near me!
Maybe this is a good time to acknowledge one of the things that makes me such a fat stupid jerk, the type of person likely to be his own "circle of friends": I hate to be pushed around. I especially hate when it is done in a "nice" way. So I am glad Lutheranism found me before Pentecostalism did. If I had been raised in a religious tradition that trades on manipulation, mass emotion, and groupthink, I would probably have ended up hating Christianity. Children's sermons and Sunday school songs were almost more than I could endure, even in the Lutheran church; but at least I could look forward to adulthood when my church would no longer require me to participate in precious little role-play games. I didn't want group therapy. I wanted to hear the Bible's bitter truths and comforting promises frankly explained. And, apart from what the Word itself accomplished in me, I wanted to be left alone.
"Circle of Friends"-type church gatherings may attract some weak-minded and emotionally needy individuals. But how shall a critical thinker be saved? "Circle of Friends"-type songs may make nice ice-breakers at an informal gathering of outgoing, unselfconscious people; but where does that leave the man or woman who believes, as I nearly do, that good taste is next to godliness?