Maybe it’s just that I was raised in a denomination/church that sang hymns on a regular basis and, because of this, I find great depth in the songs. However, last night I found something very strange happening….
Last night Will and I went to a “Carols by Candlelight” service. I have been to quite a few carol services in my day, so I thought I sort of knew what to expect. But when we got there, it was a bit…different. Instead of handing out candles at the door to the sanctuary, we were handed a glow-stick. Now this was more of a contemporary church, so I wasn’t overly surprised that it was a bit more rock-and-roll than the traditional Christmas services I am used to. But I thought that perhaps there would be some semblance of reverence at some point…like during Silent Night. But there wasn’t.
I think of Christmas carols mostly as hymns. These hymns fill ME with probably more emotion that just about any other genre of hymn I can think of. I often feel moved by them and I want to harmonize and praise and glorify God when I sing them.
At non-denominational churches, they are much more free with their raising of hands and moving during worship songs. If they feel moved they will reach their hands up and sing with fervor. Yet, last night, the only song that they raised their arms to was the only song that was not a traditional hymn. I thought this was weird. Perhaps they felt weird doing that with traditional songs rather than contemporary Christian music. But it wasn’t like they didn’t jazz up the Christmas carols with drums and electric guitars. Musically, they were indistinguishable from the any other song they would sing/perform at church. So why didn’t they “worship” when they were singing the hymns?
Is there an aversion to letting yourself “get into” hymns? Does the sound (or even just merely an implication) of only a piano or an organ to accompany music make people’s hearts recoil in disgust? I’m not sure. And if that is the case, if people are afraid to “worship” to/with hymns, is that one thing that is killing the Lutheran church? Probably not, adding contemporary songs to a worship service hasn’t really boosted the attendance much.
I guess I’m just confused. The fact of the matter is that even if you put an upbeat rhythm as the background to the lyrics of a hymn, it is still a hymn wearing a rock star costume. And people see through that.
I, for one, love hymns. I can appreciate other forms of music in worship services as well, but hymns have a depth that I fail to see in many contemporary songs. But, I’m a theologian. I can raise my heart, hands, and voice to hymns because the words have meaning to me and the music helps carry their message to me.
I don’t know if I have an answer to my question. These are just my ponderings for the moment. If you have the answers, feel free to fill me in.
Love from KZN,