Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hymns -- Expressions of Faith

We still sing hymns. We sing ancient hymns and modern ones. Some are fairly deep, and others not as deep. Some we know very well, others we're learning. We have a blended service, so we're adding in "contemporary" songs as well.

There is a trend in Christian worship to move away from hymns, to focus more on choruses. That is, rather brief, often heart felt, but usually not theologically rich pieces. Personally, I think there is a place for both, which is why I try to include all genre's in my planning.

The reason for this post is that I'm reading Brian Wren's new book Hymns For Today (WJK, 2009). I need to note that he begins the book by pointing out the possibility that some would think that the words hymn and today might be an oxymoron. The reality is that there has been a wonderful renaissance of hymn writing, of which he is a major contributor.

In the book, Wren focuses not on the music, but the words, the lyrics. And here is the point I want to make -- or the point he makes:

Hymns don't discuss faith. They express it. (p. 7).

Because hymns are poems, there is a different quality there than what we find let's say in a sermon. A sermon is declarative. A sermon discusses faith. There is a place for that. But, if that is all we do, then what we have done is attend a lecture.

So, here's my question. Looking at modern or contemporary worship, which usually begins with 30 minutes of music, followed by 45 minutes of speaking. A series of events that can look a lot like a concert followed by a lecture, is this worship? And, following that, has the congregation expressed the faith in this context?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I can drag myself out of bed and show up, that should count for something.

Remember Bob, that's MY day off!
David Mc

Anonymous said...

If we want to sing contemporary songd, how do we deal with copyrights? Doesn't seem right to steal. I always wondered about that. How much does a small congregration usually get charged for a popular song? I ofen hear one's that seem appropriate. I guess I should ask the music director. David Mc

John said...

The central issue is: what constitutes a service of worship which is both acceptable to God and expressive of the best of our relationship with the Lord.

Incidentally, you switched descriptors in your blog, going from hymns described as an expression of faith, to hymns as a mere concert. A concert is where one listens to others perform, a worship service calls the worshipers to participate in singing for the Lord. Music in church is not a mere concert but it can become that.

A sermon is more than declarative, at its best it a sermon is also exhortive - seeking to push the listeners to dial up their faith walks to more ardently and more earnestly respond to the claims of God on our thoughts and actions. Not a mere lecture - but it can become that.

Setting all that aside, what then constitutes worship, personally and corporately?

Communal presence, shared expression, shared sacrifice, communal re-commitment, individual and communal followthrough.

The DoC ommitment to the regular and often sacrifice of communion is perhaps the most important aspect of our worship service for me. I am well aware that many others are attracted and keep coming due to the sermon or the music, or just the weekly reconnection to the community of believers. And, I must admit I am bouyed up in my faith when they share their passion with me. I am exposed to aspects of the worship service which I often miss out on, or gloss over.

But for me, the core of a worship service is the celebration of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the infinitude of associations that re-kindle my love of God and neighbor.

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

David, I do commend you for getting out of bed on your day off.

John, I think you missed my point about trends in contemporary worship. In this there is 30 minutes of music -- which the congregation may or may not sing and then there is a 45 minute "sermon." Because the music is often disconnected from the sermon, it becomes in effect a concert followed by a lecture. And rarely will you find in these services a time for the Eucharist!

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

On contemporary songs -- not in our books -- we pay an annual licensing fee that pays for those rights.

Anonymous said...

My point was, if a member(s) wanted to sing a popular song that was appropriate but under copyright, he/she contact the owner and find the cost or get permission. I was just curious what the "going rate' might be.

Like I said, I'll inquire with the pro. Singing "outside the book" might be fun once in a while. David Mc

Anonymous said...

In Heaven there is supposed to be choirs of Angels. I believe, for some people, music is an very important part of the service. For some of us who have A.D.D. it's sometimes easier to get a message out of the hymn or praise songs than it is to get it out of the Sermon. For other people, the music may not be as important.

I do think, however, that nothing in the service should take so much time that there is no time to come to the Lords Table...if that is happening, shorten the sermon and amount of time spent on the music.
Mrs. David Mc