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Worship and Hymns

The worship wars have been a battle fought for decades now. The two sides: pro-hymn and pro-modern stand on two sides of a peaceful fence. But in order to stand on one side or the other, we have to be aware of what each side stands for. We have to understand what defines a ‘modern’ song, and what defines a ‘hymn’.

Definition: Hymn. Worship

The Webster definition of hymn is as follows:

a) : a song of praise to God
b) : a metrical composition adapted for singing in a religious service

The Concise Encyclopedia gives a brief history of the use of the term:

“Song used in Christian worship, usually sung by the congregation and written in stanzas with rhyme and metre. The term comes from the Greek hymnos (“song of praise”), but songs in honour of God or the gods exist in all civilizations. Christian hymnody grew out of the singing of psalms in the Temple of Jerusalem. The earliest known Christian hymn dates from c. AD 200. Hymns were prominent in the Byzantine liturgy from early times, and in the Western church they were sung by congregations until the Middle Ages, when choirs took over hymn singing. Congregational singing was reestablished during the Reformation Martin Luther and his followers were great hymn writers, while the Calvinists preferred setting psalms to music. The compositions of Isaac Watts and John Wesley were notable in English hymnody. The Counter-Reformation led to the composition of many Roman Catholic hymns, and the Roman Catholic church restored congregational singing of hymns after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.”

Concise Encylcopedia

There are also some detailed ideas in Christian Today’s article ‘Pop goes the Worship‘ (March 2011).

Yes, and there are objective criteria for what makes some music better than other music. Sacred music has special demands beyond aesthetic demands. Some musicologists argue that hymnody is actually a subcategory of folk music—distinguished from classical music because classical music is performance music, beyond the capacity of the average person to produce. But folk music, by name, suggests music produced by the people. It’s the way a people join their heritage, and it’s participatory in its very nature. Therefore, I don’t think hymns should strive to compete with Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem or the solos in Handel’s Messiah, because a congregation wouldn’t be able to sing them. [pullquote]A hymn shouldn’t be beyond the capacities of a good, intelligent church to sing[/pullquote]….
Hymns should be easy enough to learn for people who do not read music, so people can pick up the melody quickly. When I was a young child and we’d take drives, the family would sing folk music or hymns. If Mom or Dad started singing “Fairest Lord Jesus,” we sang along, and before long we were harmonizing. And we couldn’t read music. Hymns aren’t too difficult to sing; most of them are easier to sing than the contemporary stuff… They (modern songs) are not really easier to learn than hymns (unless they are profoundly simplistic). They seem easier to some people whose sensibilities have difficulty with anything that is not pop. But musically speaking, they are not, as a genre, substantially easier; they just sound more familiar to our culture. When people describe them as “easy,” what they mean is “familiar-sounding.”

With all this in mind, we can define important traits that we can agree all hymns should have:

  • Hymns are first and foremost a song of worship and/or praise to God.
  • Hymns are created to be sung corporately in worship together.

There are some some traits that are common in hymns, but are not in any type of formal definition. These are from a collection of readings and discussions about hymns:

  • Hymns are usually steeped in history, are sacred, or have some other spiritual significance.
  • Hymns are deeply theological and based on solid foundations of the Christian faith.
  • Hymns are written to teach God’s people biblical truths through repetition, musical memory, and other such faith building devices.
  • Hymns often (but not always) have a simplistic approach making them accessible to people regardless of musical ability or talent.

When we look at the first definitions, we can see that if we were to substitute ‘hymn’ for ‘worship’, then what we call ‘worship’ in it’s musical form fits seamlessly in its place. In modern day language however, we have somewhat exchanged this terminology of ‘hymn‘ for the word ‘worship‘. We know worship is so much more than songs and music, but we often accept this common knowledge and use the term ‘worship’ with this in mind. We call the music we play in church and sing together as a congregation as ‘worship’. If we were to define the term worship in relation to music, it would be relatively similar to that for which exists for the term ‘hymn’.

I am eternally passionate about worship and it’s musical form. I am passionate about deep poetical, creative, and meaningful music and lyrics that engage the heart, mind, and soul of my fellow believers. I am passionate about leading people to meet with God through song, praise, anthem, music, and sound. I am continually renewed by worshipping God. I have burned out over many other things in my life, but the fire for worship through music continues to burn strong and will never lessen – purely because for me, it is my passion.

Because of this however, there are some that say that hymns are much more than just songs we sing in church. They are more than just the ‘style’ that hymns fall into. They have some other traits; of which I have listed above. T. David Gordon says that ‘Sacred music has special demands beyond aesthetic demands.’ (Pop Goes the Worship, March 2011). Aesthetic demands, as Gordon puts it, is what I refer to as ‘style’.

[pullquote]Sanctity (or sacred) seems to be an important factor as to what people will consider a hymn or not. But what makes a song sacred? Is sanctity a man-made attribute or a God-given aspect?[/pullquote] Simply, through a few different readings, describing something as sacred is to say that it is holy, or hallowed. We find these words related to the ground in a couple of places in the Bible. Moses and the burning bush: Exodus 3:5, and Stephen telling the story of Moses: Acts 7:33. Here, it is the Lord God that has declared the ground as Holy. Likewise in 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul says that we are sanctified in the name of the Lord when we became followers of Christ – once again, a status given by God. When we think of a person who is holy, or saintly, we might use the phrase that they are ‘blessed by God’.
All of these factors leads me to think that for something to be considered sacred, it is not something that we as humans can impart, but must be bestowed on by God.

Definition: Modern. Worship

The Webster definition of modern is:

a) : of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past: ‘contemporary’.
b) : of, relating to, or characteristic of a period extending from a relevant remote past to the present time

Modern worship therefore is a subjective title given to songs that are of the present time to the immediate past. How long this time is would be relative to each person’s perceptions. When we use the term ‘modern’ worship, we might include songs from the mid 1990’s to the present day. Some may include songs from earlier such as those written in the 1980’s, or even the 1970’s.

Unlike the biblical definition of the term ‘hymn’, the term modern is actually more centred around a particular time, or ‘style’. When we look at songs that we would consider ‘not modern’, we would probably consider the classic hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’ (1779), ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ (1912), or ‘How Great Thou Art’ (1885) in that category. It is not that these are not great songs, but that they are not modern.
Likewise however, it doesn’t mean that modern songs cannot be ‘hymns’. Take modern songs such as ‘I Stand in Awe of You’ (1987), or ‘How Great is Our God’ (2004), both of which I personally would consider to be hymn in terms of the definition above.

But why is modernity important in church today?

 

The Hymn Style

What I dislike is the ‘hymn’ as a style of music. Often when we use the term ‘hymn’ (or at least when I use it) I am talking about those grandiose, organ filled, old-english songs. Songs such as ‘How Great Thou Art’, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, and ‘It is Well with My Soul’ – great songs. But still hymns. I even extend this to modern day hymns, such as those written by Townsend and Getty like ‘In Christ Alone’, and ‘How Deep the Father’s Love For Us’.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the aim for Christian musicians was to create religious masterpieces that had been previously owned by painters and sculptors of years gone by. They had their instrument of choice – the pipe organ – which could make enough sound for an entire orchestra with the use of only one person. The words, rhythm, rhyme, and melody were all designed to be theologically correct, easy to remember, and find a commonality with reality that allowed people to connect with them and connect with God through them. With the organ, both melody and chord structure merged together and a popular upbeat 3-quarter time was set as the precedent for praise and worship in the church.

Why We Need to Make Hymns for Today

kjv1611Three centuries ago this same time, around 1611, the Bible was translated into English, called the King James version. You may have heard of it. It was the closest translation to the actual Biblical languages that existed, and is still one of the most accurate even today. All English versions of the bible since all herald back to the King James version. It is Adam for English translations, and there is always a link to it in some description when we read.

Why do I mention the King James bible?

Well – quite simply – I see the musical style of ‘hymns’ as the musical version of the KJV bible. It’s out dated. Time has moved on. Language (both English and musical) has developed. It’s changed. All modern songs owe something to hymns, in the same way each English translation of the bible owes something to the KJV.
We can hang on to ye olde times as much as we want, but the world has changed. The church needs to recognise this and stop living in the 19th Century, and begin living in today. Just like we have new versions of the bible today – New Living Translation, New International Version, even the The Message – these are all updated into today’s language – a language that people of today can understand and make sense of for themselves.
Likewise, I believe the songs of praise that we sing to God also need to be updated – written in today’s language – both in speech and in music. They need to be relevant to us.
Now this doesn’t stop everyone having their preference. People choose their preference of bible translation – some still prefer the KJV. Some people look at The Message in disgust. Most people accept that the NIV is down the middle of the road – as a benchmark for all that is acceptable scripture in general church use today. Regardless of this, there is little judgement as to what version of the bible the preacher is using, as long as what they are saying is biblically true.
Yet for some reason there seems to be incredible judgement around the use of (or lack of) hymns in our church services. (I make this observation based on my own experiences, not from any church situation in particular)

But if hymns are like the King James Bible, and modern classics like ‘Here I am to Worship’, ‘How Great is Our God’, and ‘Shout to the Lord’ are the NIV – then why do we continue to insist that we ‘read from the King James’ (metaphorically speaking)? I can’t actually remember the last time I read the King James, let alone go to the King James version of the bible for a better understanding of a scripture. So why would I go to a hymn for a better understanding of worship where I have plenty of modern day songs that I can understand – both musically and the language used? There is no doubt that modern day worship songs are built on the ground that were first paved by hymns – just as the NIV has been build on the foundations laid by the King James Version. That doesn’t mean we have to keep referring to the King James bible in order to understand the NIV. Not at all. So why would we keep referring to hymns to understand worship?

Humility

In the article mentioned; “Pop goes the Worship“, T. David Gordon says ‘In every generation, gifted people would write some good hymns, and subsequent generations would enjoy them. Nothing new there. What’s new is the notion that you have to have new music in a worship service. That’s unprecedented.’
He goes on to state that the commercial nature of today’s society – the ‘newer is better’ mentality – has taken it’s hold in church as well. He says that playing hymns using a modern aesthetic is better than dividing a church. ‘But better yet to be entirely unconcerned about whether a hymn sounds contemporary. No other generation was so concerned, and there is no good reason for ours to be so.’. His book ‘Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns’ raises all these questions, to ‘…ask why, for the first time in Christian history, do we feel so cut off from previous hymnody? I think the media ecology answer is largely correct, because we are surrounded by music that has these kinds of musical qualities, and therefore we expect all music to have those qualities. But why should we allow the producers of commercial music to make those choices for the church?’. 

Worshipping God has little to do with our preference, and more to do with bringing ourselves humbly before our God in complete worship.To a certain extent I wholly agree with Gordon here. When we choose which worship song we sing based on our own personal preference, it suddenly becomes about what we want, and not what God wants. [pullquote align=”right”]Worshipping God has little to do with our preference, and more to do with bringing ourselves humbly before our God in complete worship.[/pullquote] If it comes from our heart with the help of the Holy Spirit it shouldn’t matter what the song being played is, because we are wholly and solely focussed on God.
Yet I consistently find myself struggling with singing hymns and getting myself to worship. Maybe this might be the infiltration of the ‘commercial’ as Gordon puts it. Maybe it’s Satan getting a foothold within God’s Church – an unwanted distraction to get us away from worshipping God and thinking about ourselves and our personal preference, just because it doesn’t sound like the music we like and have grown accustomed to. And knowing this, maybe I need to revisit my own heart when I come to worship.

One thing I have come to associate very closely with the word “worship”, is the word “humble”. Worship without humility is nothing. If you are allowing your own preferences to come between you and God in worship, then you are allowing self to be more important than worshipping God. Humility is therefore more than just important in worship. It is paramount.

So remember. Put aside your personal preference, and worship God with all your heart, soul and mind. If you are able to do that then the song, the style, the hymn, nor the words can stop you from basking in God’s mercy and grace. And to God be the Glory. Now, as it always has been, and forever will be.

 Further Reading

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Three Songs of Worship

Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
Ephesians 5:18-19

At the very core of modern day worship is this call from Paul’s letter to Ephesus; “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves”. It encouraged corporate worship in three forms, mentioned specifically here in the New Living Translation, as with others. It is also in his letter to Colossus in chapter 3 verse 16: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Both times, these three different songs of worship are mentioned.
But how literally do we take this? If we don’t sing a hymn as we know it today, are we following this call? And when was the last time you actually sung any Psalm, rather than read them?

To understand it fully, we have to look through this whole verse, in the context of it’s day, and in today’s context, and apply it to how modern day worship is created and described now.

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Psalms

Psalms is a book in the bible. It is a book written by several authors, but many of them by David (of David and Goliath fame). They are stanzas, verses, poems, rhythmical; they are songs. They often are verses of praise; lifting God to the forefront of our minds and giving him all the credit. They hail Him as king over all, and they encourage everyone to join in and do the same. They also deal with the troubles of life, woe is me, and why me God?; but always end up praising God in the end. They were most likely to be accompanied by harp or lyre, or other instruments of the day.
These songs are what we would call Praise songs today. One of the problems that occurred with translating these from Hebrew is that whilst we kept the understanding, a lot of the rhyme, rhythm, or feeling, was lost. Some have been able to write new music for these new English words. Songs like Your Love Oh Lord, Create in me a Clean Heart, As the Deer, and countless more.

Does this mean that we have to sing the Psalms as they were written? In Hebrew? Or English – word for word verbatim? Does it mean we need to sing them with harp and lyre?

Or does it mean we need to praise God through song; with the emphasis on thanking and giving glory all to God – even when things may seem dim? Does it mean we need to thank him, to compliment and to adore Him through song? When we praise God, do we clap our hands, give applause, cheer, celebrate, and recognise God for all of His goodness and His grandeur? If so, is this not the intention of the Psalmists? Is this not what they were in fact trying to achieve when they wrote their songs down – albeit in a different language, and certainly in a different style than we are used to today?

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[spoiler title=”Hymns” style=”2″ open=”0″]

Hymns

Hymns are commonly mistaken. There are two definitions of hymns in today’s culture. It is important to define between these. If we look at the dictionary definition of the word hymn, we find that it is a noun: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation, etc.

However, we often associate the word ‘hymn’ with the style of music. You know the type: organ, choirs, thee’s and thou’s. Very traditional. Very litergical. Very correct. Very old. The likes of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, ‘How Great Thou Art’, and ‘It is Well with my Soul’ all come to mind. These were all written out, often in books that looked rather like bibles and included a variety of hymns for all senses of occasion and theme. This was before the time of OHP’s and digital projectors. This style of song has developed over a couple of centuries. They were written for the common church instruments of the time, namely organ or piano. They are filled heavily with bold chords that follow the syllables, and inspire grandeur and distinction from the depths of one’s stomach.

However, this is not what Paul meant when he used the word ‘hymn’ in his letter. He didn’t mean a certain style of music, based on bold organ chords and ye olde words – lease of all because when the letter was written, this style that we associate with hymns couldn’t have been conceived given a certain lack of pipes and keyboards. Furthermore, the term that Paul uses ‘hymnois’ is used only twice in the Bible – in Ephesians, and in Colossians!

No. What Paul meant is the generic definition of hymn being ‘a song or ode in praise or honour of God’. He meant ‘hymn’ to mean a song sung in church to honour God. Not organ music of the 17th and 18th Centuries.
These ‘hymns’ were often well known songs of the early church; songs that people knew well and possibly didn’t need words as they were learned by heart over time. (see Strong’s Greek)

If we look at the prelude to the Colossians verse, Paul mentions the aspects of teaching and wisdom through these songs. There is no doubt that lyrically, many of the songs from this style have been carefully and poetically constructed, using the common English tongue at the time, making them accessible for the wider public. They are deeply entrenched in theology and are built around the fact that music finds its way into people’s every day lives, and if there are biblical truths being taught through the songs, then this is beneficial to strengthening people’s walk with God. This is where the definition of ‘hymn’ might come into it’s own; where God’s promises and lessons are taught to his people through songs that become part of their memory and every day lives. Almost like when a song gets stuck in your head; except hymns get stuck in your heart as well.

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[spoiler title=”Spiritual Songs” style=”2″ open=”0″]

Spiritual Songs

So what are spiritual songs? Obviously this is not a specific term as with Psalms or Hymns – and therefore doesn’t have a specific definition. It essentially encompasses all other songs that are about the spiritual aspect of the Christian life. It’s like Paul is saying ‘et cetera’ at the end of his phrase. Paul is saying that when you come together as the body of Christ, sing songs of praise to God. Spiritual songs essentially allows for other types of song to be included, so as not to limit the thoughts or perceptions that the church has about psalms, hymns, chants, verses, poems, or any other declaration of praise to God above.

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Why Three?

Why would Paul use three different terms which all serve the same point? Why would he use three terms if what he meant was for us to sing songs? When we delve into the Greek translation of the word, we find that the three words are all very similar in direct translation. Visiting Biblehub, we find that the greek translation for the word that Paul uses are:

  1. pslamois‘ – ‘a psalm, song of praise, the Hebrew book of Psalms’.
  2. hymnois‘ or ‘humnos’ – ‘a hymn, sacred song, song of praise to God’.
  3. pneumatikais‘ – ‘spiritual; relating to the realm of spirit’.

Even in Greek, Paul has used three similar, common terms for the same thing: songs of praise directed to God. So why use all three? Well one reason is probably to cement his point in the readers mind. Just as I have used a thesaurus for the word ‘praise’ so that I don’t over-use the word, it is entirely possible that Paul too was enfatically making his point by repeating synonyms and encompassing a range of possibilities that corporate worship through song should or could entail.

All In All: Beginning and End

There is only one way to sum up this verse. Some will claim the need for great debate and scrutiny over every word in modern day songs. They will claim a lack of theology within the lyrics of such songs, and a shallowness of meaning that is somewhat pointless. Some will claim that drums are of the devil and should not be played in church. All sorts of personal preferences can be thrown left right and centre. We can spend so much time squabbling over little words in the middle of a verse, that we forget the bigger picture and the clearest message this verse has to give. When we remove all these ‘human’ requirements of worship, what we are left with is the beginning and the end of Paul’s verse. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit…, and make music to the Lord in your hearts.”

That is the call to worship. When all is boiled down we are left with the raw essence of what worship is: Being filled with the Holy spirit, making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Some will dispute and say worship is not just about music or songs, and I agree. But it doesn’t say make music. It says make music in your hearts. This may or may not even sound like songs as we know it. It may not be a sound at all. But as a metaphor, ‘making music in your heart’ creates a beautiful picture of what worship is; where it should come from, and where it should be directed.

So, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and make music to the Lord in your hearts.

Related Reading:

Green, 2013

Trip to Taranaki

This week, Vicky and I got to head away for our 3rd Wedding anniversary. We got married on the first day of the middle school holidays in 2010. This year we were couple of weeks late of the actual date, due to a late start of school, and 11 week terms. But we booked out the first week anyway, and decided we would head to New Plymouth. It had been a good 20-25 years since I had been there, and Vicky remembers lots of childhood memories from the area.

The first leg of the trip included lunch at Wanganui. We walked up and down a few streets before stumbling into a cafe called ‘Mint‘. We would definitely head back there due to the very good hospitality from our waiter, who was able to do his job whilst taking care of us as well, with impeccable timing and professionalism. Vicky wanted to take him with us to every restaurant we visited.

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We went the long way around Mt Taranaki in order to visit Okato, a small rural town that my mother grew up in. We stopped to take a few photos and take in the surrounds, which as it turns out, Mum wouldn’t remember anyway!

1001077_10151569997712643_1166591562_nWe arrived in New Plymouth just before 4pm on Wednesday 17 July. We were staying at a lovely little motel, though upon arrival heard a brass eruption from a trumpet in one of the rooms – which happened to be next to ours. Not to worry. A bit of music to sooth the soul for half an hour each day wouldn’t hurt. We got acquainted with the room and then headed out and about and found dinner. Woodfired Pizza was the only option really, considering that ever since we got married, we have had pizza on Wednesday nights – without fail! Numero Uno Pizza is the name of the place if you are visiting New Plymouth and want a good pizza!

Thursday we woke to an overcast but otherwise fine day. We headed out at about 11am to go second hand shopping, which Vicky had prepared for by obtaining the addresses of various second hand shops around New Plymouth. We visited all of them, as well as some extras that weren’t on the list, and came away with a few books, a dynamic microphone, a hacksaw, a shirt, and a christmas jug. Then we attacked the visitors centre and figure out what to do for the rest of our stay.
There’s not a lot. Luck would have it however, that the New Zealand Brass Band Competition was in town for the week. We couldn’t pass a corner without hearing the glorious sound of vibrating horns and blasting trumpets. Am I being serious? No. But it did explain our neighbour at the motel.
So we headed out to get lunch, which proved nigh on impossible. Finding a park proved to be too much, and so we headed out to the suburbs to try and find something. After a quick browse on the internet, we found the address for Stumble Inn, and, ironically, stumbled in.

St. Andrew's, 2013After lunch we headed back into town to visit one more second hand store, and then take some photos. Two churches were the subject to most of these. Inside St Andrews they were having part of the brass band competition or rehearsals or something, so we didn’t stay long. The other church was St Mary’s which is the oldest stone church in New Zealand which Vicky remembers from her visits when she was younger.

 

Green, 2013We headed up to Pukekura Park to finish off the day. It was good just to get outside in nature. I was amazed by the Bowl, a natural amphitheater that was one of the best I have seen.

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We returned to the motel to another horn practice and figured out what we wanted to do for dinner. After the disaster that was lunch, we really didn’t feel like hunting around. We went to our trusty favourite of “Large Sandwich Royalty” (or Burger King) and brought it back to the hotel. We borrowed a couple of movies from the motel and enjoyed a peaceful night in.

Unfortunately the peace didn’t last as long as we had hoped. Instead of a 10am sleep in, we were woken by the god-awful noise of trumpet on toast at 8:30am. Stumbling out of bed to shove a sock up it seemed like too much effort though. Luckily the day went a little better. It was overcast and was drizzling on and off. We headed out to visit the Museum and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. We parked at one end of the Costal Walkway, which was surprisingly simple compared with the debacle yesterday. We wandered down the waterfront, and then crossed to the Museum. They had a photography exhibition in which suited my tastes. We grabbed some lunch whilst walking through the Brass Band parade. After lunch we tried to visit Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, but it was closed for renovations. Gutted.

Wind Wand, 2013
So we went back and took some photos of the walkway. Then went for a drive down the coast and around about south New Plymouth.

Horizons, 2013

Dinner was going to be family restaurant time, but we were shattered and the sound of Fish n Chip Friday was too appealing. So we ate, we watched TV, and re-connected with each other. It was actually good just to chillax.

That was until the trumpeter and his mates decided to use the motel as party central for their Friday night. 12:10 passed, and it was still going. I visited just about every motel website there was online and found that it is common knowledge that people are asked to keep their noise down from 9pm onwards, and visitors asked to leave by 10pm. I used the time to plot devious ways of revenge, including using our room heat-pump remote in the middle of the night to turn their heat pump on high. It also included letting down their tires without them seeing me – but I figured that would just keep the unwelcome noise-making friends longer.

We were away by 9:45am the next morning, heading for Inglewood and Stratford. We didn’t see much reason to stop, and so continued on our way. We stopped in Foxton for the Foxton Trading Post – the last second hand shop on Vicky’s list, before stopping in at our favourite lunch spot; ‘Mothered Goose’ (which hysterically comes up as ‘MOTHERED GOOSEBULLS’ on the bank statement!). It is a quaint little cafe, which whilst mildly over-priced, is guaranteed edible and enjoyable food.

Luckily the traffic both ways was actually reasonable. There were still about 5 too many retards on the roads who see passing lane and think “Speeding Lane”, then at it’s conclusion, apply brakes and resume at their previous speed of 80km/hr. One day it will get the better of me and I will make a website where people can name and shame people’s number plates if they drive like morons.

All in all, it was a mixed holiday. It was good to get away from home and work. But it was also a tad too frustrating in different areas to be relaxing, and actually ended up thinking about home and work more because of that. It was good to reconnect with Vicky, but overall, we probably could have achieved the same by spending some days together at home.

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Adding Stereo Speakers

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been focused on my music and in particular my studio set up. After rebuilding an old organ to make it a MIDI keyboard and computer desk, it was time to find some more permanent speakers or studio monitors.
Sound wise, I do have to balance out the tone with some standard songs so that once I record I can get a flat, consistent sound from them.
But here they are, installed by drilling a couple of centred holes, adding in some screws to the wall and hanging them up.

young-and-old

Providing New Music

Historical Hymns

For a while now I have been in conflict with the use of hymns in church today. Is there a place for them? Why do we still sing them? Are they still relevant?
As a church, we are constantly reflecting on whether we are “catering” for all generations. But we still need to be “providing” for specific audiences, or targeting them.

I have been to churches where hymns have been made mandatory. It was a requirement. But the intention behind that was as a token to the older generation in the church who “didn’t have any songs” of their own to sing. This is what I call “providing” for the older generation.
I have heard both sides of the hymns argument. I know them back and front. Part of me agrees that there is a place for them in a service. And then I attend a service where the majority of the songs are hymns and I think why do we have to keep going back to these archaic tunes?

Because of this, I don’t want to get into that debate. What I want to do is come from it at a different angle. I have prepared 5 reasons why we need to provide new worship music for the youth and young people in today’s church.

Top Five

#1: The Future of the Church

I appreciate the amount of time and effort people put into building a church as much as the next person. Countless hours and manpower goes into making services, ministries, and outreaches happen. There is a sense that we owe something to our older generation for that which they have given. Whilst this is the case, believe it or not, the future of the church is actually in the youth of today. Tomorrow, they will be the leaders. Tomorrow, they will be the body of the church. Tomorrow, they will be building the church further.
But I can tell you now, that there are things that keep youth in a church, and things that don’t. Relationships keep them. Friends keep them. Respect keeps them. Having them feel like they are a part of something bigger keeps them. Ownership keeps them. Music keeps them. However, from experience; music also turns them away. Hymns don’t fit anywhere within their iTunes collection. You wouldn’t see young folk with their car windows down with the soulful tunes of yesteryears organ blaring from their speakers. It would be a rare occasion that young people would ever go out to listen to hymns. The local mall even resorted to the musical strategy of playing “Classical” music (of similar era to Hymns) in an attempt to “move along” the young people that loitered outside. The reality is that music will draw people in or move them away. Do we want the future of the church to be “moved along” by using songs from yesterday? Or do we wan tto draw them in and envigorate their faith with music that they find acceptable and useful to worship with?

#2: Where Music Comes From

This next reason could get a bit confusing – so bear with me.
Elvis was 19 when he began recording. When the Rolling Stones hit the stage, Mick Jagger was 19. John Lennon, 20; Paul McCartney, 18; Ringo Starr, 20; George Harrison, 17 when they rose to fame. Neil Diamond was in his 20’s when he began his music career.
All of these now have incredible songs which will last for ages. Some of these will last beyond generations. Some people, like myself, who weren’t even born in these decades will still find their music preferable to today’s popular tunes. And there in-lies the point.

Music is preference. It is an opinion of what is good and what is bad. But the main reason behind this is actually relevance.

But music is created by the peers of each generation. Take one Justin Bieber, One Direction, Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus. All have their followers and fans of today’s generation. Neil Diamond and Cliff Richard still have their own followings, and still have great songs. We need to make the music relevant for the people. Imagine if Neil tried to release a new album using today’s ‘pop music’ model. Tears to well up (of laughter or pain – I’m not sure!). His songs are no doubt great and still have their place in music history, and everyone sings along to ‘Sweet Caroline’; but if all we had was Neil Diamond hits, we would only be drawing in a particular type of person. As a church, we therefore need to diversify the music. But so much emphasis is placed on making sure we meet the needs of the older generation with ‘classical’ or ‘Neil Diamonds’ that we are losing the ‘Beliebers’ and Swift fans.

#3: Give the Youth their Song

“Oh! I remember this song!” “We used to sing this all the time when I was younger!”. These joyous statements are very common among musicians I have worked with when bringing songs of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Songs like ‘Because He Lives’, ‘I Stand in Awe’, and ‘Create in me a Clean Heart’. This is because these are the songs that defined their growing up. They stir up the childhood emotions that they hold onto firmly as the grounding of their faith. They possible learned to play their musical instruments using these songs. It seems ironic that these musicians would also be people who prefer hymns over modern contemporary songs, but I don’t hear that same excitement from singing hymns. Why? Well, because the hits that they grew up with are the ‘Sweet Caroline’ songs for them.

So what for today’s generation? What do we want them to get excited by? What are we providing for them to cherish and remember? Songs from two generations ago? Songs from the middle ages? Or songs that they like; that their peers made; that they connect with? When they are older, do we want them to have that same “I remember this song” moment, or will it be more like “Oh I remember this song that my Mum and Dad sung”. Do we want them to remember how they “used to sing this all the time when I was younger”, or remember how they “used to sing this song because they used to sing it all the time in the 1980’s”?

A wise man called Lloyd Rankin once said (and I remember if because it is so true) that he chose to let the youth in his church have their song. He “chose to be the more mature man”, and let go of his favourite songs in order for the youth to have their songs. At the end of the day, he said, he can always go home and play the songs he wants to hear after the church service. He had the maturity in faith and mentality to put his preferences aside. Maturity that today’s generation can only learn in time.

#4: Coming to God as a Child

Have you seen a child when a tune comes on? They bob, bounce, flap their arms, bend their knees. In due course, many will hum or sing with the melody, others shot out the lyrics when they know them. God wants this. He wants a child-like faith where we come with no adult preconceptions or trying to understand everything. He wants this from us. And worship is what we give to God. It is our offering. God wants us to come as a child.

Now, just as the older generation had their songs that they still love, so too this generation has their songs that they will love. We sing both. But which is more important? An old song that makes the old feel young, but makes the young switch off from God, or a new song that makes the old feel old, but the young switch on like a child? Both are important, but which is more important?

According to Lloyd Rankin, maturity is going to be easier for the older generation, and humility is also a great form of worship.

#5: Sing to the Lord a New Song

My final reason is said several times through the Psalms – the book of songs, largely written by David. “Sing to the Lord a new song”. It is a continuous striving of looking for these new songs that creativity in worship exists. Not once does it say “Sing to God an old song that you like and sing it again and again.”. Developing Worship presenter Sam Middlebrook puts it elegantly where he says “I hope that the best worship song has yet to be written”. It’s a good way of looking at it. We need to keep striving for the perfect worship song, because that is what God deserves. We want to be able to express to God all that He deserves, and we do not have the adequate words to do so. Singing a new song will hope to create this. We sing it because it refreshes our worship. We are not some stuck record that is rolling round the same old songs time and time again. If we don’t sing the new songs because we are too busy reminiscing, remembering, revisiting the nostalgia surrounding hymns and old songs, we will never sing the new song intended for God that comes from deep within us.

That’s All

So that’s it. Five reasons why we need to cater our music towards the youth of today. In conclusion, don’t be deluded into thinking I am saying “Get Rid of Hymns”. I am not. They have their place. But just as Neil Diamond has his place on today’s radio stations, they should be limited, in order to allow today’s music to make their mark and influence for tomorrow. What I am saying is we should be catering for all generations, but providing for todays generation.

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David Crowder Band – Give Us Rest – Review

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David Crowder Band – Give Us Rest (or A Requiem Mass In C [The Happiest of All Keys])

A long drawn out title for an album, but considering this is said to be their last studio album, I guess they can call it what ever they want. It is a 2 disc set, with both discs complimenting each other.

The album builds on their previous two – Remedy and Church Music. It uses the techno funk sounds, but at the same time, reverts back to a very traditional type of hymn in terms of the music. Things like choral voices, organs, and repeated chants are all balanced features of the album. There is a real sense of reprise throughout the tracks, especially where 10 of the 34 songs are under 2 minutes in length, with 7 tracks simply called “Sequence” and a number.

Within all of these shorter tracks, there are some real hits. Not in the sense of the first time you hear them you’re blown away, but in the sense that they creep into your mind and are easy to pick up.  Tracks like the title track “Oh Great God, Give Us Rest”, and “After All (Holy)” are two of the anthem type songs. The second disc is a lot more complete, and also features some more traditional numbers, such as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “Because He Lives”, digging into their country roots to inspire them.

All in all, it is a very comprehensive collection of hymns and tunes. For me, none are hits like “Remedy”, “How He Loves”, “The Glory of it All”, but as an entire album, it is a definite artwork when you look at it with a wider angle.

★★★★☆  – 4 Stars

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Sad Clown, Lilac Wine, Mary Oh Mary, Some Day

Recording

Today we spent time doing a bit of recording with the new setup at the studio.
We worked on 4 songs, getting some of the vocal mixes done. Over the past few weeks I have worked on “Sad Clown” and “Lilac Wine” myself, with Stu joining me to work on the negro spiritual songs “Mary Oh Mary” and “Some Day”. Today we put some harmonies together and mixed those into the songs.
The next stage is adding some additional instrument voicing into the mix and finalising the projects.

Lilac Wine

Lilac Wine is a beautiful song I first heard on Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” album. It touched something deep inside. I’m not sure if it was because of the haunting voice, or the fact that I don’t drink, and wine made of lilac seems just as absurd; but I love the song and so figured I would record my own version of it.

The New

This is the new site for Haven Grove Studio. I hope you like it.
It has come about because of a few changes to the server and my WordPress set up. I am hoping that it will still serve the same purpose as before.
If you have any suggestions for the site, then please let me know.