Andrew Gant's lively book tells a history of sacred song.
On Saturdays at First Presbyterian, the congregants know good jazz when they hear it. But the event is first of all a church service.
The church’s recognition of the reality of radical evil opened its music to dissonant, jagged 20th-century soundscapes and what they could express.
In response to our request for essays on song, we received many compelling reflections. Here is a selection.
As new forms of congregations arise, new musical forms are developing. Walls are coming down—secular vs. sacred, intellect vs. emotion, contemporary vs. traditional.
In a major hymnal, an unauthorized edit is an embarrassing oversight. In the local church, it's pretty routine.
I like Keith Getty's "In Christ Alone." I think the PCUSA hymnal committee probably made the right call on the whole "wrath of God was satisfied" business, but still: it's a good song for congregational use, accessible but with some theological meat. It's a little bizarre, however, to present "In Christ Alone" and Getty's other songs as one side of a two-sided debate over church music, as NPR does here.
Somewhere in my queue of non-time-sensitive articles to write—yes, it’s been there a while—is one on the history and practice of making theologically significant changes to traditional American songs. Not just line-level edits like neutering/diversifying gendered language or using “love” in place of “wrath.” I mean re-imagining songs in a thoroughgoing way, while also preserving much of the existing imagery and language patterns. (I posted some time ago about one historical example.) I write songs and play traditional music, but I haven’t actually tried this approach myself.
Many churchgoers greet the announcement of a new hymnal with a single puzzled, even outraged question: Why?
In preparing the new PCUSA hymnal, our committee may have made some wrong decisions. But they weren't careless or cavalier ones.