I remember as a young child singing hymns in church. In the Mennonite churches where I grew up, the congregation sang a cappella and in parts – there was RARELY piano or other instrumental accompaniment. I have a lot of memories having a “hymn-sing” on a Sunday evening church service or even in my grandparent’s home with our family. I also remember when my sister Rebekah was dedicated. The church we attended was a fairly new church and met in a gymnasium at the old high school/community center. After she was dedicated I sang the song “I Love You, Lord” (I know, it’s not a hymn…). I was very young, but I can still remember singing my heart out – I didn’t care what people thought – I was singing to the Lord! This is the same song that was sung at my grandfather’s funeral back in high school. To this day I cannot sing that song without tears in my eyes. Needless to say, my love of music has its roots in hymns.
So back to hymns….My grandfather was a hymn-lover and so am I! I really love the older hymns – so old that no one knows them! Micah and I have often sat at our piano singing and playing out of the hymnal. The part of hymns that my grandfather loved was the text. He and my grandmother started attending Parkview Church in Iowa City several years ago. At Parkview, the music is more “contemporary” (I hate that term). My grandfather would say that this new music just sang the same text over and over and over whereas the text was always changing when they would sing hymns. He also said that the texts were very powerful and the contemporary music text just wasn’t up to par. Of course at his funeral in 2008, we sang lots of hymns – most of them I could not sing because of my emotional state. I still get teared up when singing some of his favorites like Great is Thy Faithfulness and How Great Thou Art. Fun memories…..I miss him so much, but I know he is in heaven, able to walk (he suffered from Polio) – and I’m sure dancing for the Lord, as my grandmother says.
Back to hymns…..again! I think my grandfather has a point about the text of music. Being a musician, it can sometimes be difficult for me to worship – I focus too much on techniques, what sounds acceptable/unacceptable, etc. I absolutely love attending a church where a majority of my worship time is truly spent worshiping the Lord. However, this is something I have to continually work on. A couple weeks ago we had a Sunday night of praise with the choir. And within all of the music we sang some older hymns out of the hymnal. Out of all of the music the entire evening, the hymns were the most powerful to me – all because of the text. I’m no songwriter, but in writing music I really think that the text should be what grabs the people. Melodies and harmonies are important (don’t get me wrong – I know!), but I believe that the text is a vital part of a worship experience that can bring us closer to God.
Thoughts? Am I completely off-base? Remember, I am biased – I LOVE OLD TRADITIONAL HYMNS, but I like “contemporary” worship as well. Can anyone think of a better term rather than “contemporary”?