If you are anything like me you wonder at times if there aren’t enough songs or hymns in this world already and maybe we should declare a moratorium on all new congregational songs… at least for a few years so we can catch our breath. But then a song like In Christ Alone comes around and it finds its way into our worship services and hearts, and we wonder how we managed to get by without it all these years.
I just returned from a conference where I led a workshop on Hymns for Worship. During my preparation for that workshop I looked at the theological and cultural environment songs were written in. When looking at the songs for the Lord’s Supper it became apparent that the texts highlighted a particular aspect of the Lord’s Supper that may have been most helpful for that time period. In the 4th C for example the mystery of the sacrament was highlighted whereas in the 21st C the focus has become our lived out response to the sacrament (with many other themes highlighted in between). It occurred to me that no one song could capture the full meaning of the sacrament and that congregations are most balanced and blessed when they include songs and hymns with a variety of sacramental themes as expressed through the centuries of text writing. In other words we need both the old and the new for the fullest expression of our faith.
Do we need more songs? Yes, if they will help us gain a fuller understanding of God’s glory and grace, or express our laments, praises and confessions in worship in a deeper way. But as worship planners it is also our task to make sure that the diet of songs/hymns we are offering is balanced. That we don’t focus on the service without the mystery and awe or the mystery without the service for example.
So I encourage all text writers and musicians to continue their work of putting our faith into song and to find new words and expressions to help us worship. (And by the way, the hymnal committee is open to receiving 5 of your newly composed texts/songs. The cutoff date for new submissions is December 31, 2010. For submission guidelines click here.)