Thinking Out Loud

February 3, 2019

Hymnophobia

hymnophobia \ hɪm-noʊ-‘foʊb- \ – (adj) – having or possessing the fear of hymns or (n) the fear of hymns

I think many contemporary churches suffer from Hymnophobia.

By hymns, I don’t mean the classic hymns that have been adapted by contemporary songwriters, sometimes with the addition of a bridge. That works sometimes.

By hymns, I don’t mean some of the ‘gospel’ hymns that came in the period of around 1940 and following. That’s the period that the present period is a reaction to, and it’s okay to set those aside. It’s many of those pieces which drove us to a more modern church in the first place.

I’m talking about the real, absolute classic hymns: All Hail the Power and A Might Fortress and other songs of that ilk.

Hymnophobia is really a fear of doing something that’s outside the only homogeneous, modern style that’s the trademark of today’s churches, especially megachurches.

There’s no variety.

I’d have no problem with a church doing a classic like Our Great Savior if they did it in the style in which it was originally presented.

In other words, not with “an organ” but with a high-church pipe organ sound, played in the manner that an organist would have played a pipe organ. Something that mentally transports you to one of the great 19th century cathedrals.

And let’s not forget that today’s modern keyboards have that sound built in.

Or for that matter:

  • a song sung in an authentic bluegrass style by people who really know that style of music
  • a song presented in a barber shop quartet style by people who really understand that genre
  • a song performed in a genuine operatic style by someone trained in that form

Not every Sunday, not every month, just not being afraid to try something different every once in awhile.

With the condition that it’s done so well, nobody considers it a caricature or a mockery of those forms, but actually finds the form works to communicate a particular set of lyrics.

Honestly, what are we afraid of?

Furthermore, why do we exclude people whose rest-of-the-week involves participation in a musical forms that are so removed from what we do at church on the weekend?

Why does every church service now have to 100% resemble what we hear on the local Christian radio station?

I rest my case.

 

Advertisements

November 23, 2014

The one about Hymns and Choruses and Cows

Filed under: Church, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:25 pm

Okay, I know this is old, but this morning I encountered someone who had never heard it, and so I figure there’s probably more than one. (This was a popular e-mail forward about fifteen years ago.)

Praise Songs explained…

Not long ago a farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the farmer, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”

“Praise choruses,” said his wife, “What are those?”

“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.

The farmer said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you:

`Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:

`Martha Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA,
the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows,
the white cows, the black and white cows,
the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn,
are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,
the CORN, CORN, CORN,’

Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus.”


Hymns explained…

A young, new Christian from the big city attended the small town church one weekend. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

“Well,” said the young man, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”

“Hymns,” said his wife, “What are those?”

“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.

The young man said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you, `Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you:

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain?
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn.
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.

Then, if I were to do only verses one, three, and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”

October 24, 2010

The Grand Diversity of Christian Music Styles

Last night my wife was one of a number of featured artists at community Christian music concert.    Because it was in my best interests — if you get my meaning — not to miss her musical number, I ventured out only to discover the the vast number of participants pretty well guaranteed an equally vast number of audience members.   After circling the block twice, I finally gave up on getting the perfect parking spot and arrived after the first number had already started.

The performances included:

  • two church choirs doing a total of six songs throughout the program
  • a modern worship band doing two songs that I’m sure were only recently assigned their CCLI numbers
  • a preteen girl doing a number from The Prince of Egypt
  • an organ solo of Elgar’s Nimrod (not sure why)
  • a small but talented group of kids ringing handbells on a well known hymn and a more modern Graham Kendrick song
  • my wife’s somewhat jazzy take on a song by Christian artist Rich Mullins
  • a guitar/vocal solo of an original song
  • a group of four young girls doing a hymn arrangement I’m sure was by John Rutter with mandatory British accents
  • a Pentecostal worship band channeling the spirit of David Wilkerson’s church in New York with approx. 40 slides’ worth of non-stop lyrics (they were numbered) to songs only they knew (though the audience was at least clapping at the end)
  • the classical (almost operatic) vocalizing of Albert Malotte’s The Lord’s Prayer by a baritone soloist

Of all the songs, I think the bell-ringers’ choice of Crown Him With Many Crowns was among the best known; otherwise we were charting what was, to me at least, new territory.

Just as political expediency governed my choice in attending the concert versus staying home, so also did some political expediency determine that the choir of the host church would sing a total of four songs; double that of the modern worship band or the other choir, unless you count the sheer length of the Pentecostal worship band’s single medley.

Let me explain here that throughout the evening there were times when the lyrics of the songs were projected at the sides of the auditorium at which point everyone — except for maybe those of us nursing sore throats — was expected to sing along.

For its third of four numbers, the host church choir made what I consider to be a rather odd choice:  The Beatles’ Let it Be.

Question.   Which song do you think the audience sung most wholeheartedly?

Yep.  That one.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Ah, yes!    The concert was billed as a “Celebration of Hope” and there was the hope… “There will be an answer, let it be.”

Now, on the one hand, it somewhat warmed my heart because in addition to being involved in Christian music;  I’ve always thought the popularity of the annual Handel’s Messiah singalong — where the audience participates throughout — warranted a “Songs of the 1960s” singalong.   It’s an idea that I’ve been promoting since days long before PowerPoint and video projection; potential copyright issues notwithstanding.   I know people love those songs.   I’m glad to know the singalong thing actually is workable.    And I think the audience was highly predisposed to sing at this point, because the program’s artists had chosen such a high degree of unfamiliar titles.

But on the other hand, out of all the possibilities in that gigantic compendium we once called “sacred music;” it seemed to me somewhat of a “what-were-they-thinking?” kind of moment.   A lapse of judgment.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.

Am I being narrow here?   And what Mary is being referred to?   Though the Wikipedia story is quite different — it talks about a dream McCartney had about his mother — at the time the story was that the song was written as a response to a hallucination by a member of the band’s road team and the original lyric was “Mother Malcolm.”    You remember him, right?  Or her?

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me.
Shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

I just think that there are so many songs that offer so much spiritual richness and depth that to choose an “inspirational” song instead from the pop music market is just to contribute to the ongoing watering down of the Christian message.

If I were a member of that choir, I would have said, “Sorry, I can’t join in on this one.”

August 13, 2010

AMTO: Modern Worship Hits Mainstream Culture

It was the crossword puzzle clue seen around the world.

The New York Times Sunday Crossword…
Sunday May 2nd, 2010…
22 across…
Here I ____ Worship (contemporary hymn)

It’s hard to believe in such a short time modern worship has become so entrenched in U.S. culture that a song by Tim Hughes should become a crossword puzzle clue in the nation’s largest newspaper.

Modern worship grew out of the contemporary Christian music movement of the 1970s and early 1980s.   (You can read a short history of it, here.)  But while many of the songs are simply the next generation of hymns, there are some who feel that the current worship trends will eventually fade and be replaced by something else.

Here’s a comment from a discussion my son had with other staff members at the Christian camp where he’s serving:

Yesterday I had a very long discussion about what’s appropriate to sing as worship, and what isn’t.  We all have little-known artists we like and can connect with, and everyone I talked to is fed up with contemporary worship music and other mainstream Christian music.  One guy thinks otherwise-good bands are being ruined by recording labels who force them to write more music than they actually want to.  I think that after the music leaves the composer, it’s up to God to decide who to use it towards.  Earlier in the summer we had a staff time where several people shared songs God has spoken to them thru, even though they aren’t explicitly Christian songs or even written by Christians.

I’m not surprised to see a rejection of the worship industry.   (I was about to call it corporate worship, which would be a suitable term if it didn’t already mean something else.)

Kim Gentes writes on worship and technology and on May 9th wrote:

…No sooner had the “old” vs “new” fight subsided, than we began to hear rumblings about the “corruption” of modern worship. After 30 years of infancy, its growth into adolescence was met by some amount of disdain by a good group of its progenitors. The original “guard” that was around when praise and worship burst on the church was now becoming vocal about the ongoing change that continued to propel the stylistic growth of the music. But more than just that, there was a “we told you so” attitude developing that began to expound the idea that the community of practitioners was now becoming enamored with the commercialization of the musical genre that had grown up around the music. In other words you could hear this said in a thousand different ways from some people- “this modern worship isn’t as pure and humble as the original stuff”. Also there is the idea that “worship leaders are just trying to become artists with record deals”.

Back in 2006, John Ellis of the group Tree63 said:

The commercialization of modern worship has led to a glut of participants… Modern worship has become a unit-shifting genre of contemporary Christian music, and now everyone’s in on it. As a result, that worship music becomes diluted….The songs become insipid and lame, and hey, is Jesus really honored by that song after all?

In a discussion on Wednesday with a pastor and worship leader, I lamented the loss of songs of proclamation and testimony.   I like vertical worship, but at the same time that evening services and “testimony times” disappeared from our churches, so also did the hymns that told a personal salvation story.

History tells us that things will change again.   I just wish I had a crystal ball to see what the next major force in worship will look like.   Of course, I’d be happy to be able to come close to finishing this crossword puzzle.


If you don’t know Here I Am To Worship, you can link here; and I’ll also put it in the comments section on Friday morning.

Blog at WordPress.com.