I was besieged recently with one of those powerfully emotional fond memories--something you suddenly, and clearly remember, and then can't stop thinking about. As we were planning the songs for this week’s service, someone suggested we sing the traditional doxology, "Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow". We hadn't sung a doxology in a long while, and a flood of thoughts, ideas, and memories poured through my mind. When I was growing up, we sang that song to end the service almost every week for years. And yet I had almost forgotten about its existence. And there were several other songs we used to sing as doxologies when I was a kid… "Now Blessed Be Jehovah God" and the last verse of "By the Sea of Crystal" are two that come to mind. Why haven’t we been singing any of these? What’s happened to the doxology?
The first question, I suppose, is whether a formal doxology is really important. I did some (limited) research, but I couldn’t find any solid teachings on the theology surrounding doxologies. The CRC has debated whether the benediction must be the last part of the service, instead of the doxology (see: Acts of Synod, 1928). Overall, though, it seems the doxology is simply a long-standing tradition, not an element of worship required by our theology or doctrine.
But if it’s something many churches have done and still do, why would we stop doing it? One staff member at my church said it was mostly a question of time. Since the worship team or pastor wanted to sing just one song after the sermon, they decided to go with a “closing hymn” and drop the doxology. I’m not sure if that’s the whole story, but it sounds plausible. It could also be that some leaders viewed the doxology as antiquated, thus advocated its disuse in an effort to modernize. I don’t really know.
Regardless what the reasons were, I suddenly find I really miss singing a doxology. Is that a legitimate longing? Is acute onset of longing a reasonable emotion when the object of one's longing has been absent for a decade or more? Well, I hope so. Even if it is just nostalgia, I want our church to return to regularly singing a doxology. It doesn’t always have to be Thomas Ken’s classic, but I do want to sing something that praises God as it closes our worship service.
How about you? Does your church use a doxology every week? How do you feel about that? Do you know why your church does or does not use one? If anyone out there knows of any canonical prescription, please share. I’m curious how prevalent the use of a doxology is and what people think of it.