Graham's altar calls never featured much fire-and-brimstone rhetoric. Neither does Charlotte Elliott's positive, gentle song.
Hymnbooks offer songs from many cultures and genres. But trying new music can be a risky venture for leaders and congregations alike.
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.
When I left North Carolina at age 22, I never planned to be back in a Baptist church. Years later, here I am.
It's a truism that Christianity lives and breathes as much (or more) through music as through preaching or teaching, to say nothing of dense theological texts--so Christian preachers and teachers should be on the lookout for ways to incorporate the great hymns of the tradition into our sermons, lessons and other theological work.
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
The struggle to choose the hymns for the small rural congregation I serve is a microcosm of the challenges faced by members of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (PCOCS) as it decides what hymns and songs to include in the next Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) hymnal and electronic resources.
New hymnals, a.k.a. “Worship Books,” are forthcoming from numerous church bodies, including two Lutheran groups (among them my own ELCA). Having studied none of these books, I write with vincible ignorance about the details. Having studied church history, however, I write with invincible knowledge of how all of them will be greeted in some sectors of each church group. Those old enough to have savaged the books being replaced will now mourn their loss, just as they will—if they live long enough—grieve over the shelving of the ones they are now trashing.