In Praise of Hymns

Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.

Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.

For decades, choruses and praise bands have replaced hymns as the mainstay of music in evangelical churches. There are many good reasons. Choruses are easy to learn and easy to play. Big screens on the wall keep parishioners from burying their heads in their song books and singing at the floor. Little words in hymnbooks can be hard to see and the notes, rests, time signatures, and staffs in the music may be confusing to the musically uninitiated. It is easier for pastors to find a guitar player, a drummer, and at least one vocalist than to find a minimum of two sopranos, altos, tenors, and bases, along with a choir director, and one pianist competent enough to play complicated hymns. In such a world, do hymns belong in the dust bin of history?

Continue reading “In Praise of Hymns”

Advertisements

Whatever Happened to Beauty?

A look at beauty denied, misunderstood, reviled, and ignored, in the modern world.

The other day I was driving to the Mine Academy in Beckley for a strategic planning session. Nancy called and bade me to look to the southeast, where I beheld a particularly stunning sunrise. On arriving a few minutes early at the meeting, I mentioned the sunrise to several people, but only a few bothered to look out of the window. On a hike last summer, Nancy found a tiny deep purple flower amidst dying grasses. On a different occasion, she spotted a set of intricate ice crystals astride a fallen log and a pile of snow. As with the Mine Academy example, others in the area didn’t notice, or didn’t care. Life is composed of little moments of beauty such as these – to miss the beauty is to miss life itself. Why do so few people seem to notice?

Continue reading “Whatever Happened to Beauty?”

Music and Emotion

We use music to influence ourselves, and ourselves, and create the emotions that we need to do what we want to do.

Our father could never understand our taste in music. It was the 1980s, and my younger brother and I were teens. Dad was a singer and loved music, but preferred the Bobby Vinton style to the Axl Rose style. More than once he asked, “why do you listen to that trash?”, a question that every generation asks their children and grandchildren.  We were both involved in the youth group at church, and my favorite artist at the time was Keith Green. He was a talented Christian singer who was sincere about his faith, but tragically died in 1982 from a plane crash, as so many other musicians have. My brother found Ozzy Osbourne more to his taste.

Continue reading “Music and Emotion”

Does One Art Form Bring More Glory to God than Another?

A discussion of professions, the arts, art media, and the glory of God

It is Christmastime, and Christians around the world are singing “Glory to God in the highest.” We rarely consider what they mean. In church, we may parrot the Westminster Shorter Confession, which states that the purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Again, the words ring true, but what do they really say, and how can we really do them?

Continue reading “Does One Art Form Bring More Glory to God than Another?”