We usually sing at least one hymn in church every week.
I don’t know, but there might be a hymn quota. A requirement of some sort that we sing a hymn every week to appease the hymn lovers.
I am one of these, a hymn lover.
But sometimes I am unappeased.
If there is a hymn quota, certain conditions must be met and a specific standard must be achieved in order for a song to meet the hymn requirement.
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When the Hymn Doesn’t Count
- When you change the harmonies. One of the reasons we like to sing the hymns, is we like to sing the harmonies. We know our parts. Something special happens when we are able to contribute something musically beautiful to the praise and worship of our Lord. If we sing one of our favourite hymns, say “Holy, Holy Holy,” but I can’t find my part, the discrepancy between the joyful worship I might have experienced and the frustration I actually experienced . . . Well, it would be better if we didn’t sing it at all.
- When you add a flakey chorus or bridge. Perhaps the fad is over, but for a while there we were always singing hymns with new choruses added. A few of these were quite good, most added nothing to the song, and some are downright bad. If we are going to sing hymns with added choruses, they should be only those in the first category. Otherwise, just toss it.
- When it’s not a hymn. There are songs that sound like hymns, but they aren’t really hymns. Let’s sing these songs, but they can’t be counted as having sung a hymn. “In Christ Alone” is one such song. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” is another. These are wonderful, but they don’t count.
- When you change the lyrics. The song has already been written. If you want another song with a different theological emphasis, write it, but you can’t rewrite this one. It does us no harm to sing in words that are not contemporary–it might do us some good.
- If it’s a Sunday School song from decades ago. Hymns are old Christian songs, but not all old Christian songs are hymns. It is a condition for many under 30 to lump together anything that happened before their birth into the category ‘old.’ Consequently, a young worship leader can easily conclude that “Pass It On” is a good old hymn. It is not.
- When you change the musical style of the hymn, it’s awesome.
Different Musical Styles
Perhaps you expected me to rail against changing the way a hymn sounds. That’d be a silly thing to complain about.