What's Happened to the Doxology?

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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.

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For whatever reason - perhaps because of its most common placement in the service - I operated under the misconception that "doxology" meant "the last song in the service." As a child, I remember singing the doxologies mentioned in this post, always at the end of the service, too.

Truth is, "doxology" means "song of praise" and can be used at any point in the service. It is often Trinitarian in form and the last stanza of many hymns are doxologies (Come Thou Almighty King, Holy God We Praise Your Name, and Now Thank We All Our God are a few of my favorite examples of this). We have regularly concluded our offering - which took place in the middle of the service - with a doxology, and varied which doxology was sung depending on the Sunday within the Church Year. 

Our church is accustomed to singing something after the benediction (if not just before as well), so it bodes well for us to use a doxology at the end of the service. If the hymn before the benediction includes a final doxological (if that's even a word) stanza, we'll sing the 2 or 3 opening stanzas prior to the benediction and the doxological stanza following. Then we'd "go in peace to love and serve the Lord." 

In any case, I wouldn't include a doxology (or THE doxology) just to do it. It must be placed with purpose and intentionality - which is another reason why I like it as a conclusion to the offering.

Participant

That's true, Chad; doxology doesn't have to be a concluding song.  But for the purposes of this post, I was using that way to discuss the tradition of ending with the same hymn/song every week.  That tradition used to be ubiquitous in Protestant churches, but I think it's not as prevalent anymore.

Some churches start each service with the doxology.  and why not?  Give God the praise at the beginning and at the end, and in between!  Let the angels rejoice with the one sinner who repents!  Let Jesus smile on his holy children!  Let the words of our mouth praise his Name!

When I was working as a youth director at Hope Reformed Church (RCA) in Clifton, NJ we always sang the doxology after the offering as the plates were brought forward after the money was collected. I always thought it was a nice reminder that it was God from whom all blessings flow--including financial blessings. It's been 7 years since I've attended there, but last I knew the doxology still held that place in the worship service. 

What I like about "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow" and other such simple, one stanza, often trinitarian doxologies is that they seem to be a fitting response - both to a just pronounced blessing on the people (benediction) and to the whole of the worship we just participated in.  Our services generally end, after the sermon, with a song of response (maybe some words of sending or response), God's blessing/benediction, and a doxology.  Sometimes churches want to put a "marching orders" song as the very last song, telling God and each other what we will do.  I prefer God's blessing and our praise (doxology) as an ending to help us remember it's all in God's hands, ultimately.  Song of response after the sermon is a great place for us to declare our commitments, to sing our "marching orders," and so forth.  Of course, with so many different doxologies to choose from, we don't have to be limited to "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."

Community Builder

We sometimes sing a doxology at the end of the service but not very often. I really miss closing the service with praise to God. Last week we sang "The New Doxology" which is based on the traditional one "Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow," What a way to end the service. Yes, I wish we sang a doxology every week or at least more often.

As the prayer ministry leader, I lead our Prayer Services and we always end with the Doxology. After brining our praise and petitions to God, it is only fitting that we praise the One who hears and answers us.

I attended a meeting recently and we closed with the doxology, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. I have attended several meetings (including classes) where we've done the same.  It's difficult for me to even express the powerful presence of God at that moment!  I love the thought of opening and ending a worship service/meeting with praise. I've participated in services where it is offered in the beginning, middle and ending.  It puts the focus on God and not so much on us and what we will do. Of course, a combination of doxology and sending forth closings might be the best option.

 

Community Builder

I grew up singing the Doxology at the end of worship, and it still feels right there, although today I think I would move it around in the service (beginning, middle, and end) to keep it fresh and to keep it from seeming routine. My favorite memories of singing Praise God from whom all blessings flow.... are at the end of meals at extended family gatherings. The acapella, traditional 4 part harmony combined with these words of praise to the triune God seemed to lift us a little closer to heaven. The doxology is wonderful with full-blown instruments. But if you're in a setting where a good share of the people know it, I'd encourage singing with the just instruments God has placed within us - our voices!

We are an RCA church plant in southern California. We sing the doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) every Sunday. Recently we had a pastoral intern who was not familiar with the song, so we sang all five verses of "All Creatures That On Earth Do Dwell" of which the last verse is the familiar Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.