I grew up in a church that used hymnals, and only hymnals, during Sunday morning worship. Of course, that was flattering typical, as my sons used to say, “back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.”
Well, maybe we “dinosaurs” knew a thing or two. we recently ran opposite a blog post that remarkable how much we inadvertently lost when we traded hymnals for newly-composed music projected onto a screen.
On his website, Toronto blogger Tim Challies records that only a few decades ago, scarcely every church had a goodly supply of hymnals; they were the best way to yield any worshiper with copies of all the songs they were to sing on a given Sunday. But today, many churches plan the difference of songs up on a screen—not just hymns, but songs of all types.
What’s lost, Challies writes , is the clarity that the church “had an determined collection of songs”– something well-worn hymnals suggested. Hymnals also communicated the thought that any song, before its inclusion, had been delicately vetted per its peculiarity and its message. “After all,” Challies writes, “great songs are not created every day and their worth is proven only over time .”
This meant new hymns were “chosen delicately and combined to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally”–about every 10 or fifteen years, Challis writes.
Not so today. Now, congregations are asked to sing all sorts of newly-written songs, many of which, to put it charitably, are not likely to mount up to the test of time. Some songs are stoical by eager musicians who mostly have little bargain of the theological messages hymns ought to convey .
The loss—or downgrading–of normal hymns means we now have the ability to supplement new songs to the service willy-nilly. The result: We “have distant fewer of [the good hymns of the faith] bound in the minds and hearts,” Challies observes.
And when was the last time your church harmonized its songs? Hymnals enclose music for both tune and harmonies. But “the detriment of the hymnal and the arise of the ceremony rope has reduced the ability to harmonize, and, in that way, to sing to the fullest of the abilities,” Challies argues. The result? “We have lost the ability to sing skillfully. We “compensate for the poorly-sung songs by cranking up the volume of the low-pitched accompaniment.”
In short, we sing common songs enthusiastically, but badly, presumption we can be listened at all over the drums. Some years ago, when acid for a new church home, we immediately separated any church whose website remarkable the participation of a “worship band.” And “Christian rock,” if we must have it, should be cramped to Youth Group meetings—preferably as distant from the refuge as possible.
Of course, not all new music is bad, and not all 300-year- old hymns are worth singing today. What we need to do is find a way to establish what music, old or new, is suitable for ceremony and praise .
Professor Donald Williams of Toccoa Falls College has some recommendation on this matter. In an essay in Touchstone, patrician “Durable Hymns,” Williams writes that we should inspect the music of the past to “learn the criteria by which to discern what is estimable in the present.”
Like Challies, Williams appreciates the settlement of the centuries—music and difference that have endured since they are great. In sequence to establish what is good in complicated music, he says, “We must know those marks of value that done the best of the past mount out and tarry so long.” These marks of value get “from biblical teaching about the inlet of worship.” They come “from an bargain of the inlet of music and how it can support those biblical goals.” Among them: biblical law and theological profundity.
Consider the lyrics of a strain by Charles Wesley :
“’Tis poser all: th’ Immortal dies!
Who can try his bizarre design?
In vain the firstborn cherub tries
To sound the inlet of adore divine.”
These verses help us conform God’s authority to adore Him with the minds as good as the hearts. By contrast, too many contemporary songs are “so uncomplicated and repeated that theological thoughtfulness never has a possibility to get started,” Williams notes.
Among the worst, “You Never Let Go,” generally the chorus, which we are meant to forever repeat :
“Oh no, You never let go
Through the ease and by the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go,
Lord You never let go of me.”
I get it! God doesn’t let go. Not. Ever .
Another sign of low-pitched value is elegant richness, Williams notes. He points to “the elementary but evocative word like “wretch” in Amazing Grace, and “the use of questions in What Child Is This? to capture the consternation of the Incarnation. By contrast, he asks, “How many ‘praise and worship’ texts would be worth reading simply as religious communication but the music?”
Very few, I’m afraid.
And while bad peculiarity hymns of the past have been weeded out, in some churches today, nobody seems to be weeding out contemporary music—especially music stoical by church members. Why? Perhaps since the assemblage can no longer discern good music from bad. Or if they can, they keep quiet, since nobody wants to harm the feelings of the person who wrote it.
Musical beauty is also a sign of value in church music. There are, Williams writes, “certain contours, structures, and cadences that make for a singable tune and certain harmonic felicities that can make that tune some-more noted or even haunting.” He points to “Be Thou My Vision” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” as good examples of such beauty. By contrast, many regard choruses “seem to omit all the manners of good composition, giving us not well-shaped melodies but just one note after another.”
The good news—if your church music cabinet embraces the kind of music that creates you wish to cover your ears –is that we can sing hymns at home. Make strain memory partial of your daily devotions. Buy or bring home a hymnbook (especially if they’re simply entertainment dirt at your church), select a dozen favorites, and dedicate to training all the verses of any strain over the space of a year. Tape a duplicate of the strain you’re trying to memorize to the fridge or on your desk. If you’re out and about, bring the difference up on your smart phone (as prolonged as you’re not driving!) and memorize another line or two. My favorites: “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” “Guide Me O, Thou Great Jehovah,” and Charles Wesley’s pretentious “And Can It Be That we Should Gain.”
I’ve been memorizing hymns for several years, and I’ve beheld that if we start singing, my husband, operative within conference stretch in the home, will mostly join in. When I’m stressed, we sing to God. And when I’m trying to comfort a good baby, we stone and sing strain after strain until it falls asleep.
Much as we hatred to acknowledge it—because we adore the old hymns– there are SOME contemporary ceremony songs that are of good quality. (You’ll wish to check out Warren Cole Smith’s talk with composer and musician Keith Getty about Getty’s music and his passion to replenish congregational singing)
But before churches give up the good hymns of the faith, or cut down on them to make room for songs created last week, we need to consider delicately about what we competence be losing: Music that teaches us to ceremony God with the minds; music that celebrates His good present of shelter while joyously nutritive the souls.
Or, as Charles Wesley put it:
“No defamation now we dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Bold we proceed the almighty throne,
And explain the climax by Christ, my own.”