Hymnal Review - Hymns Modern & Ancient

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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Hymnal Review - Hymns Modern & Ancient

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Conservative, Traditional… and New!

Hymns Modern & Ancient is a short collection of hymns and songs (133 in all) in a volume intended to supplement, not replace, more comprehensive hymnals already on the market. The collection is compiled by Fred R. Coleman and includes several of his hymns. Ruth Coleman, his wife, provided most of the arrangements.

Quality over quantity

I’m reviewing this collection as a non-professional musician. Though I play the piano a little, lead singing often and have sung in choirs most my life, my musical sight-reading skills are not sufficient to sit down an play hymns and songs I don’t already know—at least, not in any reasonable length of time. As a result, the large number of unfamiliar songs in HMA are difficult to evaluate musically. If the half dozen or so I’m familiar with are a good indication of the quality of the rest, the music throughout is fresh but—relative to where we are in musical history—conservative.

The collection consists mostly of work from the last few decades, with a smattering of undeservingly-neglected work in the more “ancient” category. The collection manages to avoid the chorus genre almost entirely (“I Worship You, Almighty God” may be the only song in the chorus category). I’m encouraged that it’s even possible to gather more than a hundred conservative, traditional and new hymns and hymn-like songs of good quality. The existence of this collection suggests that something like a revival of serious hymn singing may be in progress.

I use the category “hymn-like” here to describe songs that differ enough from traditional hymn form to make their hymn status debatable. Two examples come to mind, both of them composed by Bob Kauflin. Kauflin’s “The Look” is a remake of the John Newton hymn, “I Saw One Hanging on a Tree.” Though the original is a fine hymn, “The Look” has a far more soloist-oriented melody and rhythm and includes a chorus. Similarly, Kauflin’s “A Debtor to Mercy” restyles Augustus Toplady’s “A Debtor to Mercy Alone.” While Toplady’s work (and the music usually paired with it) was true hymnody, Kauflin’s remake moves substantially into “song” territory.

In my view, both of these songs are still good work and suitable for worship, but I would rather have seen them paired with fresh arrangements that preserve the hymn form and make only minimal adjustments to the original texts. (But this is the opinion of one whose notion of ideal worship singing would be 98% pre-19th century, stately hymns sung passionately in a somewhat small space with lots of hard surfaces and no microphones—and a grand piano, acoustic guitar and violin for background. But how often do we get to have our ideals?)

True hymn form has the additional advantage of avoiding the rhythmic complexity that makes many contemporary songs difficult for congregations to sing together (unified in melody, tempo and rhythm—as with one voice). Of course, this advantage assumes that the congregation actually ought to be heard, and to hear one another, above what’s happening on the platform (or should I say “stage”?).

The majority of songs in the collection are in traditional hymn form or very close to it.

As for themes and lyrics, the quality of the texts of these hymns and songs appears to be unimpeachable.

Authors and composers

The mix of authors and composers represented in Hymns Modern & Ancient is interesting. The collection includes eight titles by the compiler, Fred Coleman. That’s no surprise. But one pair of author-composer statistics highlights the shift that has occurred—and is occurring—in many fundamentalist (and fundamentalist-heritage) ministries. Songs by Ron Hamilton: 1 (“Bow the Knee”). Songs by some combination of Keith and Kristyn Getty or Stuart Townend: 30.

The collection also includes 5 titles by D. A. Carson, 10 by Bob Kauflin and 1 by Steve Green. I was glad to see 4 by Chris Anderson included as well.

The spectrum of authors and composers may be of concern to some ministry leaders. Sadly, a few will see the numerous Getty, Townend and Kauflin contributions as reason to put the collection on the books-to-avoid list. To these, I suggest a project: work through any hymnal of the 20th century and compile short biographies of the hymn authors and composers. You’ll discover that, right or wrong, we’ve been singing songs and hymns from theologically diverse sources for a long, long time. The case can be made that we should only sing hymns and songs from sources virtually identical to us in doctrine and practice. But this would be a new idea, a departure from the long-standing tradition of Christian hymnody (but our hymnals would definitely not be so thick and heavy!).

Musical aesthetic

Hymns Modern & Ancient clearly aims to avoid the musical aesthetic of contemporary pop-culture. Opinions will vary somewhat as to how well it succeeds, but I expect most would characterize the selections as musically conservative and traditional.

In addition to avoiding contemporary pop-culture, the volume appears to be blessedly free of the bouncy-weepy tunes of the Second Great Awakening era and the ball-room inspired tunes of the golden age of movie musicals (1930s-1950s). Whether some of the included melodies and harmonies will sound like 90s or 2000s cliché to future generations remains to be seen. I suspect that a few will become conspicuously dated but that most will age well.

Testing the waters

The preface to the volume explains its relationship to the venerable Anglican collection Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) and provides interesting history of the divide between hymnody of the “stately stream” and that of the “evangelical stream.” Coleman writes,

Like the compilers of Hymns Ancient and Modern and generations of Christians before them, I affirm congregational singing as both prayer and creed. I am convinced that congregational singing is the best musical venue for accomplishing the purposes of gathered Christian worship. Modern congregations ignore too many great hymns of the past and shun too many great hymns of the present. (preface, p.3)

The preface also expresses hopes that a full-hymnal project may eventually come from Heart Publications in Milwaukee. No doubt, the likelihood of that project reaching completion depends in part on how well-received Hymns Modern & Ancient turns out to be.

For my part, I’m glad to see this collection in print and hope it will prove to be an encouragement to churches looking for fresh, poignant and meaty expressions of our faith paired with music that reflects a sober and thoughtful (rather than popular and sensual) aesthetic.

One of my favorite selections is John Newton’s “Approach My Soul, the Mercy Seat” set to a Fred Coleman modified (and improved, I think) version of the tune MORNING SONG. A few archaisms in the text are modified as well (though I think Newton’s “be Thou my shield” is better than “You are my shield.” The latter merely states; the former seeks).

Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat
John Newton

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.

Your promise is my only plea,
With this I venture nigh;
You call all burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to You for rest!

You are my shield and hiding place,
and sheltered near Your side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him You have died.

O wondrous love, to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners, such as I,
Might plead Your gracious name.

“Poor soul, now tempest tossed, be still;
My promised grace receive.”
’Tis Jesus speaks—I must, I will,
I can, I do believe.

I look forward to getting to know the hymns in this collection better and hope to introduce many of them to the congregation I serve. (The collection is not available on Amazon, but can be obtained from Heart Publications.)

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Physical Quality

Two issues:

  • The binding is very low quality. Turning pages is difficult without tearing them. It will not last long.
  • The price point is too high. 133 songs for $15.95 is too expensive for the average congregation to fill the pews as a supplement to a hymnal. We're Singing (The Wild's) is half the price, has more songs, and has a longer lasting binding.

Great selection of songs. Hope they resolve some of these other details.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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Price and value

The price may indeed be a problem for some churches. In my own case, I'd put the book at a higher value than a We're Singing because of the smaller size. That is, this collection is far more selective and I think that enhances the value. But from a marketing standpoint, it remains to be seen if enough people want to move away from choruses and gospel songs toward hymnody.... and pay that price.

I have encountered a bit of difficulty with pages moving freely in the wire binding. (The binding is hardcover with internal wire.... this lies flat nicely on a piano, but there are trade offs and people in pews don't need that.)

Personally, I don't plan to try to persuade my church to fill the pew pockets with them. Rather, we'll use selections and introduce them slowly as we learn them. For us, even learning a hundred of these will take years.

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The Price

I know Fred Coleman and talked to him at a wedding a few weeks ago about the book. From what I recall shelled out a lot of money for the rights to edit some of the songs to make them more singable for a congregation. That's part of what you're paying for and I think it could be worth it.

I took a look at the book and loved the song selection, but I too noticed the pages stuck together. Either way, I'd take it over the Wilds songbook most any day based on style and selection.

People also might want to take a look at the RUF Hymnbook. http://www.igracemusic.com/hymnbook/home.html

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Author/Composer Comparison

Though I'm not necessarily a huge fan of Hamilton and I do love a lot of what comes from Getty/Townend/Kauflin, the disparity in the book is more likely due to the fact that the people most likely to purchase HMA already have access to most of Hamilton's stuff because they are probably using Majesty Hymns or Rejoice Hymns. I wouldn't look at the stark contrast in numbers as a statement by Coleman, but rather that he's simply reading his environment. Seriously, why pay royalties to republish what so many in our circles already have in their pews?

Beyond that, I think what Coleman has done on the whole is excellent (barring the physical quality issues mentioned above). I have an enormous amount of respect for him not only as a former teacher of mine, but also as a mentor and friend.

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Book quality

I got one of these for my daughter (our church pianist) a couple weeks ago. I've only briefly perused the song selection, but I have seen some gems in there. For a pianist, it wasn't really expensive compared to piano editions of other hymnals, but I have to agree that the quality doesn't seem great. It might last just fine used as a piano copy, but it probably wouldn't stand up to congregational use very long.

Dave Barnhart

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Good review

I have a ton of respect for "Uncle Fred" after sitting through so many of his classes in Grad School - I should pick this up if for no other reason than that.

I will say, just as a sort of counterpoint to this paragraph:

Quote:
True hymn form has the additional advantage of avoiding the rhythmic complexity that makes many contemporary songs difficult for congregations to sing together (unified in melody, tempo and rhythm—as with one voice).

While it's certainly not the case in every congregation, I've consistently been surprised at my church by how quickly a "non-musical" group of people can pick up new songs, even if they are rhythmically complex and don't conform to the same poetic meters as we usually find in traditional hymnody. I wish I knew what it was about those complex songs that made them easy to learn, whether it was something in the song itself or if it's just our congregation being more inclined than I give them credit for. But whatever the reason, I'd hate to think that a renaissance in hymn signing would simultaneously "dumb down" the kinds of songs that congregations can sing. (And I know that's not what Aaron's getting at here...I'm just talking in general.)

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Worth vs. Value

I feel this book does have more worth than We're Singing, but the latter has greater value. My families (immediate and church) are thoroughly enjoying learning and singing various songs from HMA. I just don't think it will gain the coverage that We're Singing has achieved, mostly because of the price point. What we've done at my church is purchased a few for the leaders and musicians, and then post the lyrics on PowerPoint. So most of the congregation has no idea what book is being used, they just enjoy the songs. I hope the publisher improves the cost to value ratio and physical quality, because it is a great publication.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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A better alternatiive

The best we've been able to find is Cantus Christi, published by Canon Press. Our church adopted Cantus Christi a year ago and it has already improved our worship, our sensibilities, and our view of God.

I am alarmed that Central has just adopted (for Central Chapel) this hymnal edited by Pettit. This is not A Fundamentalism Worth Saving.

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I was at BJU when Fred

I was at BJU when Fred Coleman began serving there. I really appreciated him.

As for all of these new hymnals, why not just make a powerpoint hymnal? The problem with hymnals is that none of them contain all of the songs a church should be singing. Also, revising a hymnal to add new songs is expensive. I have noticed that when the church used powerpoint, people sing looking up instead of having their heads buried in a book. Also, I have noticed that visitors will sing from powerpoint more willingly than they will pick up a hymn book.

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Let me also note that Fed

Let me also note that Fred Coleman has a good philosophy of music that his reflected in his choices for this hymnal. That is healthy.

On our 9.11 memorial service, we will be singing the Anderson, Habegar, hymn entitled "I Run To Christ." Good stuff!

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Todd Mitchell wrote: The best

Todd Mitchell wrote:
The best we've been able to find is Cantus Christi, published by Canon Press. Our church adopted Cantus Christi a year ago and it has already improved our worship, our sensibilities, and our view of God.

I am alarmed that Central has just adopted (for Central Chapel) this hymnal edited by Pettit. This is not A Fundamentalism Worth Saving.


Yep. That is just horrible. Next thing ya know, Bauder and Horn wil get a mohawk and boogie down the isle during chapel.

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PowerPoint Hymnals?

How do church members acquire and carry PowerPoint hymals?

I ask because I think that, in addition to owning and using Bibles, believers should own and use hymnals. This is important in one's private devotional life and in family worship. One can learn and use the Psalms and good hymns and spiritual songs much better with daily access to a good hymnal.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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Brent Marshall wrote: How do

Brent Marshall wrote:
How do church members acquire and carry PowerPoint hymals?

I ask because I think that, in addition to owning and using Bibles, believers should own and use hymnals. This is important in one's private devotional life and in family worship. One can learn and use the Psalms and good hymns and spiritual songs much better with daily access to a good hymnal.


Brent,
I am not asking for the elimination of hymnals. I carry a number of them. I still think making a powerpoint hymnal available would be more helpful for corportate worship in many churches.

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Make your own hymnal

When we went through a long and somewhat tedious new-hymnal selection process about 8 yrs ago, I frequently wondered why someone is not producing a Make Your Own Hymnal hymnal.
What I really wanted to do was take two or three hymnals, remove the songs I knew we'd never use and combine them into one.

Publishing a hymnal like that would be somewhat expensive maybe... but I'm not so sure. What if you make all the copies a looseleaf three-ring binder?
We could make this ourselves of course, but managing all the royalties would be time consuming--not to mention getting all that musical notation looking good on every page.

But seriously, someone should publish a hymnal like that. It would be worth a little extra money to have something where it's all good, nothing is wasted and you can easily add songs to the end and grow it.

About Cantus Christi
I'm pretty sure there would be some doctrinal problems in some of these hymns that would be of concern to some churches.... post millennialism, etc. But we already have these problems in most hymnals.

Image shows the selections in CC by century... from the Canon Press website. CC is a Doug Wilson/Moscow Idaho production (Presbyterian? Certainly Reformed)
I must admit it's attractive... and Canon Pres has lots of audio you can get to go with it to help you learn the hymns.

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Soft-format hymnals

Brent Marshall wrote:
How do church members acquire and carry PowerPoint hymals?

I ask because I think that, in addition to owning and using Bibles, believers should own and use hymnals. This is important in one's private devotional life and in family worship. One can learn and use the Psalms and good hymns and spiritual songs much better with daily access to a good hymnal.


Well, maybe powerpoint would not be the best format, but how about PDF or some other e-reader format? I own a number of hymnals, and it would be nice to have them in a format that was searchable, something I could put on a laptop, tablet, or even phone, and I'd always have it available or even with me. I already do this for multiple versions of the Bible that I have on my phone. It would be great to have a number of hymnals there too.

I'm not opposed to paying the cost of licensing the music, but I'd like to get rid of all the paper, ink, shipping, etc. costs. Not to mention it would make keeping them around much easier. A tablet computer could even be used on the piano, and would take up much less space than even two hymnals, let alone more.

If hymnals could be acquired in this format, it would make a "Mix and match" hymnal even more easy to put together and acquire. Go to the publishing house, pick the hymns out of the available selection you want in your copy, pay the fee, and download. If one of these was acquired by a church, then it would also be in Powerpoint format for use in the services, and there would be a site-license for copies that the members could download for personal use.

Dave Barnhart

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Personal hymn book use

Todd Mitchell wrote:
The best we've been able to find is Cantus Christi, published by Canon Press. Our church adopted Cantus Christi a year ago and it has already improved our worship, our sensibilities, and our view of God.

I am alarmed that Central has just adopted (for Central Chapel) this hymnal edited by Pettit. This is not A Fundamentalism Worth Saving.


Speaking as a regular member, there's no reason to stay with just one (though that's more likely what a church will have to do). I own Cantus Christi, as well as Hymns, Modern & Ancient, Hymns of Grace & Glory, Majesty, Rejoice, and a number of others. All are useful for some things, and if there are songs in one or another that have doctrinal issues, there are plenty of others to choose from.

Dave Barnhart

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The Baptist Hymnal

The Baptist Hymnal is also pretty good (Lifeway). That's what my church uses (along with a smattering of other stuff). There is some fluff to wade through, but it has newer stuff that people may want. They also have a good digital/PDF side to their operation.

http://www.hymnary.org/hymnal/BH2008

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eHymnals & Make-Your-Own Hymnal

I see value in PDF or e-reader formats and would be happy to have good hymnals in PDF format on my laptop. The declining price and growing availability of tablets may make this an increasingly good option, also. I do not want to totally replace the books, though. At minimum, I would give a book to a child much more readily than a tablet. A PDF file might also be useful for make-your-own hymnals.

Aaron, your make-your-own comment got me thinking. A loose leaf has some benefits, especially while still in development, but I would not expect them to last well under heavy usage. However, the print-on-demand and self-publishing industries may be giving us new options. I just did a Google search for "self publishing" and visited the site of the first company that came up, Lulu. According to its book cost calculator, the manufacturing cost for a 6x9 B&W hardcover book of 500 pages is $23 for a single copy, and that drops to $19.55 each when ordering 100 copies.

That price does not cover royalties. Since the vast majority of the music that I would want included is not subject to copyright, I am not concerned about that. I realize that would be a bigger issue for some.

One still needs to find someone with software (e.g., Finale and InDesign), skills, and time to do the editing and layout. But if each hymn were set up in a separate PDF file, it would not seem too difficult to choose the hymns one wanted and combine them into a larger PDF file suitable for self-publishing.

I have no illusions: this would be a bunch of effort. But it might just be viable.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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A note on tablets

I own an iPad2 and regularly use it in our worship service. And while I would venture that our worship style is markedly different than that represented by this hymnal, maybe some insights will be helpful. We have opted not to use hymnals and instead project the words to our songs on the wall behind the singers and instrumentalists. Originally we (the singers) used to cram around a podium and read from a bulletin, but when I got my iPad I made a small investment in Presentation for iOS. During rehearsal I assemble the PowerPoint from individual song .PPT files, then email the pesentation to myself so I can open it on the iPad. Now the singers can have some personal space and still see the exact same presentation in front of them as the congregation sees behind us. I also have the HDMI-out adapter and we're going to play around with me controlling the entire presentation from the front.

There are also clips that will attach to mic stands that can hold iPads and display lead sheets, guitar chord sheets, etc. And with the ipad's screen resolution, it's not too far out the realm of possibility that you could put hymnal pages in a PDF format for a pianist to read from. Stocking the pews, though, may be out of most churches' budgets. ;)

And there are downsides. When I first started using my iPad I forgot to turn off the screen timeout. Sure enough, during the Scripture reading, when I hadn't touched it in a few minutes, it locked with a loud "click." At least it didn't happen during a song. And what do you do if you forget to charge it Saturday night?

So it's not all rainbows and unicorns. But by and large it's a huge help for our worship team.

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How many hymns?

Does a church need a hymnal with 400+ hymns in it? Considering how many songs are sung at each service, it might be more practical to have a much smaller selection... and every church I've ever been in sang the same songs on a regular basis. If you sang 3 songs per service, and had services 3 times a week, it would take a year to sing every song in the average hymnal one time.

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Wow

Seriously, if the "Fundamentalism Worth Saving" includes being "alarmed" that an institution would adopt HMA as their hymnal, then it just needs to die. Sheesh.

Andrew Henderson

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Andrew Henderson

Andrew Henderson wrote:
Seriously, if the "Fundamentalism Worth Saving" includes being "alarmed" that an institution would adopt HMA as their hymnal, then it just needs to die. Sheesh.

Andrew, it was a joke.

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Religion
Liberty University Online

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No Joke

Greg, I was being serious. I could have chosen a better word than "alarmed," though. "Disappointed" might be a better word, though a bit weak. "Alarmed" implies surprise, and this is no surprise at all. It is simply typical Fundamentalism, unfortunately.

Central is still the best seminary I know for theological education. And for a few years under Dr. Bauder, it was possible to get that theological education without being immersed in typical Fundamentalist sensibilities. But the adoption of this hymnal, as a supplement to the existing one so that students can learn how to sing and how to worship from the likes of Pettit, Getty, Townend, Kauflin, et al, seems to mark the end of that era.

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Sorry Todd but I guess I

Sorry Todd but I guess I don't understand your point. But that is probably not your fault.

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Religion
Liberty University Online

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Puzzled

Todd Mitchell wrote:
[Central's ] adoption of this hymnal, as a supplement to the existing one so that students can learn how to sing and how to worship . . . .

This baffles me. The two goals are worthy ones, but the stated means will not work. How can one expect to accomplish this with HMA or any other hymnal, for that matter? One may use a hymnal as a source of music when teaching a person how to sing, but one does not learning how to sing from the hymnal. Similarly, a hymnal has a significant role in our worship, especially as the doctrine and sensibilities of its contents can enhance or detract from our worship, but again, it does not teach us how to worship.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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Good question, Brent

Perhaps the idea is to inculcate Pettit's musical sensibilities in the student body at Central.

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Food for Thought

In reading Religious Affections this evening, I came to the following, which bears on the topics here:

Jonathan Edwards wrote:
And the duty of singing praises to God, seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

To interpret that properly, one must understand Edwards’ terms. As to the affections, he explains that the soul has two faculties, one focused on perception (the understanding) and the other on inclination or aversion to things perceived. The latter is variously termed the mind, will, or heart. Edwards then describes the affections as “the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.”

Edwards argues that there is a critical link between holy affections and true religion. As part of that, hearing and perceiving religious truth is not enough: the affections must be moved, or no action or change will result.

Food for thought.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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The affections must be moved

Excellent quote, Brent. The affections must indeed be moved if we are to obey the first and greatest commandment.

And as Edwards points out, they must be moved correctly.

Lex orandi, lex credendi.

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Overthinking it

In ref to #25 & #26... You guys are overthinking it.
A hymnal is going to reflect somebody's musical sensibilities. This is unavoidable and why would we want to avoid it anyway? I don't think it's accurate to say HMA is "Steve Pettit's musical sensibilities" any more than it is to say it's the sensibilities of whoever chooses it as their hymnal. That is, the fact that they chose it means it reflects their own musical sensibilities.
"Students can learn how to sing and to worship..." can easily be understood to mean "Students can learn how to exercise good judgment in selecting material for use in worship."

It isn't really that difficult.

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Overthinking?

Aaron Blumer wrote:
In ref to #25 & #26... You guys are overthinking it.
A hymnal is going to reflect somebody's musical sensibilities. This is unavoidable and why would we want to avoid it anyway?

Aaron, I am not sure what you think the "it" is that we are overthinking. You seem to be focused narrowly on Central, but I do not think that can be divorced from broader issues. When I quoted Edwards, I was not focused on Central's decision but on the whole issue of hymnals and hymnody and their role in our worship. Todd's reference to Lex orandi, lex credendi suggests that he is thinking generally, also. Having recently read Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, this excerpt from the preface comes quickly to mind:
A. W. Tozer wrote:
The message of this book … is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.

The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit.


As Tozer says, we have a big problem. And I think that we are deceiving ourselves if we think this problem is largely confined to circles of Christianity other than our own. The Edwards quotation that I posted yesterday provides a specific link to music. Tie these together, and there is much for serious analysis regarding worship music. How can this be overthought?

A key issue flows from the exact point that you made: every hymnal reflect musical sensibilities. In choosing a hymn or a hymnal, one gets more than notes and words, one gets ideas and attitudes and sensibilities that shape our view of God. Thus, critical questions for anyone choosing a hymnal include "why should I use this?" and "what does it get me?" I do not mean simply what songs are in the volume—that is obvious. I mean the ideas and attitudes and sensibilities that shape our view of God.

A related critical issue is "what does this cost me?" Every choice of hymns and hymnals has an opportunity cost. By choosing this, we lose the opportunity to choose that. This, too, affects my attitudes and sensibilities and my view of God.

How can this be overthought?

Aaron Blumer wrote:
"Students can learn how to sing and to worship..." can easily be understood to mean "Students can learn how to exercise good judgment in selecting material for use in worship."

That may be what was in the mind of the speaker, but that is not close to what was said. I think about this frequently, for my son believes that the Lord would have him be a preacher of the Gospel, and I am trying to help him learn the discipline of being precise in how he communicates. I often tell him that our professions (law and gospel ministry) require us to communicate clearly and carefully. Here, I genuinely hope that imprecise speech is not indicative of imprecise thinking ("underthinking")?

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As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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Todd Mitchell wrote: The best

Todd Mitchell wrote:
The best we've been able to find is Cantus Christi, published by Canon Press. Our church adopted Cantus Christi a year ago and it has already improved our worship, our sensibilities, and our view of God.

I am alarmed that Central has just adopted (for Central Chapel) this hymnal edited by Pettit. This is not A Fundamentalism Worth Saving.

So Todd . . . have you actually looked at this hymnal or is this just a knee-jerk reaction?

Jeff Straub

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The tanking of Central

Todd:

You think that Central has tanked now that a new president is on the scene using a problematic hymnal. I noticed today on Doug Wilson's website that he is hosting Mark Driscoll. Now here's the guy to teach us all about serious worship! Yep! Mark Driscoll is the guy I'd bring in to have a conversation on serious worship. See http://www.graceagenda.com/

But then I supposed you have already sent your Canon Press hymn books back to the press b/c of the gross inconsistency of Wilson. I guess that's not an evangelicalism or presbyterianism worth saving either! I guess we are all in serious trouble. Central is using HMA in chapel and Doug is using Driscoll. No one, it seems, has it right. Todd, there's only two of us left standing . . . and I'm worried about you, my friend! Using a Doug Wilson hymnbook. What's next? Driscoll himself in Granite Falls? :O

Jeff Straub

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The "it" being overthought

Brent, I was referring to posts #25 and #26

Jeff & Todd... you guys should settle it with a duel. Fifty paces, then whoever can find Ecclesiastes 4:7 first wins.

(Todd, I think he might have a point, though)

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Sorry to be unclear. By "it"

Sorry to be unclear. By "it" I meant which issues, not so much which posts.

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As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

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Issues

By "it" I meant Central's decision to use the hymnal and the relationship between that and students learning how to worship. By overthinking, I meant the idea that they were claiming a hymnal alone could teach how to worship or that using a hymnal means they could only be learning one man's musical sensibilities.

Looks to me like a simple decision to use a good tool and a brief (and manifestly sensible) rationale for why they expect it to be helpful.

....but now I'm not sure... are we talking about my "it" or your "it"? I should go to bed I think! Long day.

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Which Ancient Hymns?

Aaron, did you note which ancient hymns were included? Who were they by? St. Ambrose, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great?

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Easy, Jeff!

Jeff Straub wrote:
So Todd . . . have you actually looked at this hymnal or is this just a knee-jerk reaction?

I've seen the preface and the index.

Jeff Straub wrote:
Todd:

You think that Central has tanked now that a new president is on the scene using a problematic hymnal. I noticed today on Doug Wilson's website that he is hosting Mark Driscoll. Now here's the guy to teach us all about serious worship! Yep! Mark Driscoll is the guy I'd bring in to have a conversation on serious worship. See http://www.graceagenda.com/

But then I supposed you have already sent your Canon Press hymn books back to the press b/c of the gross inconsistency of Wilson. I guess that's not an evangelicalism or presbyterianism worth saving either! I guess we are all in serious trouble. Central is using HMA in chapel and Doug is using Driscoll. No one, it seems, has it right. Todd, there's only two of us left standing . . . and I'm worried about you, my friend! Using a Doug Wilson hymnbook. What's next? Driscoll himself in Granite Falls? :O

Hi Jeff,

I'm not sure what you mean by "tanked," but as I said earlier I still think Central offers the best theological education of any seminary I know. I've heard good things about Dr. Horn's approach to academics, too.

Wilson is extremely inconsistent ( http://www.canonwired.com/resources/tv-ad-logos/ take a look at this !). But Wilson maintains a distinction between sacred and secular music, and as bad as his sensibilities are in the latter, even so are his sensibilities excellent in the former. At least they were when he edited Cantus Christi.

By adopting a hymnal, you are not adopting all of what the editor believes and values. All you are adopting is a subset of his sensibilities represented by the songs he chooses to include. In the case of Wilson, that subset is excellent. In the case of Pettit, that subset is not.

But by adopting this hymnal Central isn't doing anything unusual at all in the world of Fundamentalism. It just seems to mark the end of an unusual era at Central -- a return to business as usual.

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Gentlemen, choose your weapons!

Todd Mitchell wrote:
But by adopting this hymnal Central isn't doing anything unusual at all in the world of Fundamentalism. It just seems to mark the end of an unusual era at Central -- a return to business as usual.

Todd:

What does this mean? "Business as usual." [... ] Who else is using this hymnal? [W ]hat qualifies you to pontificate? [... ] Using a certain hymnal means we are not a fundamentalism worth saving? Get serious. Maybe if we used the Veggie Tales Hymnal. But simply using "new" music. Is some of it weak? Sure. What hymnal doesn't have weak music? I haven't looked at Wilson's but given his theological sensibilities, I wonder. But I am not going to write you off as a presbyterian or something else simply because you choose to use his hymnal!

Don't be knee-jerk here. By the way, someone wrote me off-line suggesting that bringing Driscoll into the conversation was a red herring. I think not. I think it was on point. Simply because Driscoll is associated with Wilson does not mean that Wilson's hymnal is defective, any more than thinking that because Peteit is associated with HMA, it is somehow defective. I don't remember seeing ant hymns written by Steve . . . but even if he did . . .

JS

Edit: Edited for compliance with SI posting standards. Any typos left as originally written.

Jeff Straub

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Charlie wrote:Aaron, did you

Charlie wrote:
Aaron, did you note which ancient hymns were included? Who were they by? St. Ambrose, John of Damascus, Gregory the Great?

At the moment, don't have my copy with me. I'm not sure there is anything in there older than reformation era. "Ancient" is probably being used pretty loosely. The reasoning is probably that the best work of the truly ancient sort is already in lots of hymnals. But I really think--based on my limited experience--that we could really use some work on taking some of this truly ancient stuff and offering some fresh arrangements. I would be glad to see that.

Edit: found a snapshot I had taken of the authors & composers list.
There are several Psalms. That would be pretty ancient, no? :)
Other than that, I see a Bernard of Cluny (12th cent.) and Synesius of Cyrene (5th century?) It could stand to have more in the Ancient category.

(There are 4 by Steve Pettit... one fewer than those by D. A. Carson)

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Headscratcher

Todd Mitchell wrote:
Wilson is extremely inconsistent ( http://www.canonwired.com/resources/tv-ad-logos/ take a look at this !). But Wilson maintains a distinction between sacred and secular music, and as bad as his sensibilities are in the latter, even so are his sensibilities excellent in the former.

Oy. That's something I didn't think I'd ever see coming from Doug Wilson.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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There is at least one Pettit

There is at least one http://heartpublications.com/uploads/hymnal/precious-blood.pdf ]Pettit song in the hymnal.

I don't think the concern over conservatism voiced here has to do with there not being enough old old songs in here, or even that there is new stuff, but that some of the newer stuff while being "what we think of as conservative" in style does not maintain a continuity between the ancient and modern in expression (in which I would include quality and character of the music, as well as the ways in which the truths expressed are imagined in the text.)

The oldest song I recognize in that list is "Lord Jesus, Think on Me," (one of my favorites) which is from the 4th or 5th century.

This classic finds as its companions in this hymnal both Hamilton's "Bow the Knee" and Townend's "How Deep the Father's Love." Which of those maintains a greater continuity with the ancient songs?

Interesting that of those two, the one generally considered less conservative by "fundamentalist standards" is, in my opinion, more truly conservative.

I think Todd M's point is that Wilson's hymnal (with which I have no personal experience) maintains a greater unity between older and newer.

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Hymns Conservative and Commercial

Without passing judgment on or making any comment specifically about this collection of songs itself, it boggles my mind that Sovereign Grace and other publishers made Fred Coleman pay for their hymns. I feel bad for him, actually.

Can you imagine Isaac Watts... "Sorry, I'll only let you put my hymns in your hymnal if you pay for them."

That in itself illustrates the problem with what the "modern hymn movement" is doing today: regardless of their relative worth and improvement over other sacred songs that have been written in the last 100 years, what they are doing is a commercial endeavor. These songs were not meant to be put in hymnals; they were meant to be projected on screens after someone has paid for them through CCLI.

I respect Fred Coleman's goals in this collection, but the price and quality (I had the same reaction as http://sharperiron.org/comment/34655#comment-34655 ]the first commenter in this thread when I bought a copy) reveals the problem when you try to combine the commercial practice of copyrighting hymns with the conservative practice of a hymnal.

They don't go together.

Scott Aniol 
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Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

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Scott, I agree with your

Scott,
I agree with your concern. It bothers me when hymnwriters charge for hymns and it bothers me when preachers charge for their sermons. Is this just a problem with Getty though? Don't most of the fundamental music companies charge for their stuff?

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Here is what boggles my mind...

Here is what boggles my mind: the idea that musicians and composers should not be compensated for their work. Why shouldn't SG and others get paid for their songs when they are published in a hymnal? In an era where 95% of all music downloads are illegal and churches regularly rip off publishers by photocopying choir music, exactly how do we expect writers/musicians to be compensated? And if they aren't, why should we complain about the quality of their music?

I have heard that Chris Tomlin earns more than $1 million/year on CCLI licensing fees. That may be true, but he is a very rare exception. I know numerous professional Christian writers/musicians and only a few generate more than a very modest living through music.

We do not live in the same era that previous musicians lived. No kings are sponsoring musicians to generate Christian music anymore.

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Odd objection

Scott,

I find your objection to making money off of hymns odd when your own website sells materials that you have produced. Granted, book writing isn't the same as hymn writing, but I don't really see that much of a philosophical difference.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Jay C. wrote:Scott, I find

Jay C. wrote:
Scott,

I find your objection to making money off of hymns odd when your own website sells materials that you have produced. Granted, book writing isn't the same as hymn writing, but I don't really see that much of a philosophical difference.

Yes, it is odd to put it mildly.

There are plenty of people that would not charge a hymnal publisher to use their hymn. They might see it as a chance to get exposure, build their brand or whatever. Some may not need the money or they might just want to be of a help.

But not everyone is in that position. Musicians/writers spend a lot of time crafting music and they need to recoup their investment. Scott spent several thousand dollars on his CD that he sells. He is perfectly correct in asking people to pay money for it. Writers are no different even if their investment is more time than money.

In the real world, musicians have to eat too and they have families that also have to eat. And on top of that, as you get bigger and want to improve, you need money to invest for that. SG has overhead to cover and they might just want to earn some royalties so that they can hire better writers.

It is just strange to fault musicians for trying to earn a living and improve the quality of their work.

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GregH

GregH wrote:
Musicians/writers spend a lot of time crafting music and they need to recoup their investment.

Just by way of comparison, when a poet places a single poem even some of the better literary magazines, usually all s/he receives is a couple of contributor copies. If that poem ends up in an anthology, there may be some remuneration but it is often token.

All but the most widely admired poets make their living from teaching or business of some sort, writing and sharing their poems because of some inner motivation.

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That's just the way things are today.

I really hope this isn't a rehash or import of the "it's bad because it's copyrighted and this kind of stuff should be free for all God's people to use" argument from the KJV threads. That argument is no more persuasive here than it is over there. The world of Watts and the world of SharperIron are so wildly different in terms of inter-connectedness (how quickly things can move around the world) that the question "What Would Watts Do?" really doesn't make any sense. A better question would be, if Watts was alive today, would he put his stuff under copyright and charge for its use?

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Charging

Observation: Scott does charge for his books, yes- but he doesn't require subscription fees for the articles regularly provided on his website.

Similarly- I don't think the issue here is that a musician should not charge for any materials- say, recordings or arrangements. Scott's specific mention was for hymns for congregational use. I doubt very much that most church-oriented musicians these days have livelihoods that rely primarily on selling congregational hymns. In fact, I would imagine that in today's commercial settings (for better or worse) making simple congregational hymn arrangements more freely available might actually enhance public familiarity and interest in someone's other works and efforts.

Greg Linscott
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Greg Linscott

Greg Linscott wrote:
Observation: Scott does charge for his books, yes- but he doesn't require subscription fees for the articles regularly provided on his website.

Similarly- I don't think the issue here is that a musician should not charge for any materials- say, recordings or arrangements. Scott's specific mention was for hymns for congregational use. I doubt very much that most church-oriented musicians these days have livelihoods that rely primarily on selling congregational hymns. In fact, I would imagine that in today's commercial settings (for better or worse) making simple congregational hymn arrangements more freely available might actually enhance public familiarity and interest in someone's other works and efforts.

I just don't understand why it is OK for musicians to charge for all materials but not for hymns for congregational use. That is just inconsistent.

You are right that few if any writers earn a livelihood from selling congregational hymns. But why would you begrudge a writer from earning a few hundred dollars here and there, especially when that writer probably is earning pennies an hour on the music they write?

And you are also right that distributing church hymns for free is a good marketing strategy. But that is really beside the point. The question is whether it is somehow out of bounds to collect licensing fees from hymnal publishers.

It is completely irrational to complain ad nauseum about the quality of Christian music today while at the same time berating musicians for actually trying to earn enough to make it their primary occupation. What kind of music can you expect if you create an atmosphere where all the musicians are part time hobbyists?

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Not begrudging...

I am not begrudging anyone anything. The right for someone to charge for their work is their prerogative. It is also the prerogative of people like me to observe that making congregational hymns a commercial endeavor like this is problematic- placing an obstacle in the process of congregational assimilation of said hymns.

Greg Linscott
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Hymn$ and Choru$es

Fred's hymnal will certainly provoke a lot of discussion. But I'm not sure the money angle is a very big issue. Personally, I think the hymnal price is in line with the current market.

Nerdy background: Hymnal publishers hammered out standard royalty contracts a long time ago. Basically, the publisher pays 10 percent of the retail price as royalties, split among all of the particular hymnal's copyrighted works. The 10 percent hymnal royalty isn't unusual--in fact, many book author contracts are negotiated at 10 percent of net (not retail). But hymnals are different from books in that a lot of writers are sharing that 10 percent (not just one person). In the case of Hymns Modern and Ancient, there are about 100 copyrights. So figure a $15.00 retail price X 10 percent, divided by 100 shares.

I suppose someone might ask where the rest of the money is going--the short answer is labor costs. While this may seem counter-intuitive, labor costs for a project like this will be much higher that the print vendor costs. Typesetting, arranging, careful editing...it all takes time and money. And for a carefully arranged and edited book, the costs are always worth it. Hug an editor today!

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Worthy of his hire

I'm basically with GregH on this one, though I might make my case a little differently.

1 Ti 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

But I think Linscott's got a good point, too (and maybe Scott A.? Not sure if I saw him making the same pt) that there's a difference between someone who lives from hymn writing vs. someone who doesn't.

But I wouldn't take that too far. I have four "jobs" now if you count SI as one Smile ...and it would be easy to look at one or another and think, "He doesn't need to get paid for that job because he gets paid for the other one." But, wow, the kids sure do eat alot now ... and the gas... nad the medical stuff! Point: we don't really know what these guys give away or how they use their income and they may really "need" every dime of it. Either way, they certainly are entitled to every dime of it.
(Maybe I should paste a donate button here.... but no, that really wasn't what I meant to focus on!)

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I understand...

The issue isn't entitlement, as far as I can see. I also don't have a problem with someone copyrighting their work. That being said, many people who write hymns receive compensation in other ways from churches or related organizations. This isn't a hill I'll die on- I've paid to use hymns, myself. That being said, I am grateful that say, Chris Anderson and ChurchWorks distributes hymns as they do- it provides a service to believers, and has, I imagine, been successful at generating interest in things that would produce royalties (such as the choral arrangements and recordings people have done) that may not have garnered the same immediate interest had they not been made freely available.

The fact that people can charge for services is not the same as whether or not they should. The ox shouldn't be muzzled, true- but it is also more blessed to give than receive. Sharing what you have learned and been able to express in a hymn with fellow believers seems a better model than selling what you have produced to paying customers.

Greg Linscott
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Greg Linscott wrote:The fact

Greg Linscott wrote:
The fact that people can charge for services is not the same as whether or not they should. The ox shouldn't be muzzled, true- but it is also more blessed to give than receive. Sharing what you have learned and been able to express in a hymn with fellow believers seems a better model than selling what you have produced to paying customers.

I assume this applies to preaching too? Smile

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Sure it does

Quote:
I assume this applies to preaching too?:)

Oh, sure it does. Very few visiting preachers have come to our church demanding any kind of "up front" figure, or price per message. It's freewill offering. Now, Our church usually will pay mileage and has a standard pulpit supply fee we budget, but that's something we set, not something we're charged.

When I have come in new to a church, we discuss salary near the end of things, and often the details are really mentioned after I have already committed to coming and the church has committed to having me come. At my last church, I took a 1/3 salary cut the lat few months we were there because the church couldn't afford to pay me full-time any more- and we only ended up leaving because I couldn't find a compatible part-time job in that time frame.

On lesser examples- how many time do we pay our teachers in church ministries? People devote lots of time to lesson prep. The men of our current church built our current facility by themselves, by and large. To my knowledge, we paid no one for shingling, hanging drywall, etc etc.

We have a youth camping ministry here our church cooperate in with others. We rely on volunteer counselors. I have served as dean of Junior Week the last three years. I get no payment for my efforts, nor does most of our staff (we do have a small stipend we budget for the cook, nurse, and lifeguards).

So yes, I do think these principles are not limited to musicians... and I am willing to live by them myself, and strive to.

Greg Linscott
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One piece of the pie

I have some sympathy with what Greg is saying--when I write articles for Aaron, I don't charge him, and I don't charge my own church (even though other people pay me to write). I think there is room for a discussion about how much and when we pay our Christian artists, musicians, and writers. And those who earn salaries working in such roles should carefully consider pro bono projects in the context of their personal ministries.

Maybe some of this discussion is driven by a fear that someone (Fred? Certain song writers?) will get rich, riding on the backs of (poor) local church musicians. I'm not as convinced this will happen. Fred could lose money very easily. He and his publisher are fronting all of the start-up costs, and he many never get a return on his personal investment. Lots of publishing projects never break even. Almost all self-published projects lose money (when correctly accounted). So if he loses money, should churches share in this cost, too? In such a scenario we're less likely to apply our "sharing" policy!

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Object of concern

Kevvy,

As I recall, the concern that prompted this conversation was not with Dr. Coleman charging for the hymnal, but Coleman's being charged for using the hymns by their copyright holders (presumably after re-setting them himself to be more "fundy-friendly"), which in effect drove the price higher.

Greg Linscott
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Greg's right

Greg is right...so maybe a better corollary might be Thomas Nelson's charging for John MacArthur's commentaries, which are largely based off of his NT preaching.

I see the conundrum, but I'm not sure how to fix it. I personally don't charge to 'guest speak' for the churches that I've been at - and argued with one church that was overpaying me at one point - but I'll be happy to take any kind of voluntary gift if they provide one.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Quote: While it's certainly

Quote:
While it's certainly not the case in every congregation, I've consistently been surprised at my church by how quickly a "non-musical" group of people can pick up new songs, even if they are rhythmically complex and don't conform to the same poetic meters as we usually find in traditional hymnody.
I imagine this is because they are only hearing it and not trying to read it. The songs themselves are not that hard to sing, IMO. Many of them, for better or worse, use the common rhythmic structures that are heard every day on the radio. However, the music itself is hard to read. Most people can imitate the rhythms of any song pretty easily. Most people cannot read music, particularly complex music.

To Scott's point of paying royalties, I would imagine the issue has to do with Coleman making money off of it. SGM makes many (if not all) of these songs available on their website for free, either in piano form, or lead sheet form, though some of them may not have the four parts. I would anticipate the royalties regard profit, not use. We can debate whether that is right or wrong I guess, though I don't have a great problem with it. Creative enterprise, even by Christians, is property and the owner may legitimately choose to do with his property as he likes. I have serious problems with the whole commercialistic enterprise that is modern Christianity. But I am not sure that a reasonable royalty for a profitable pursuit is particularly problematic.

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Follow the money...

Oh, all I'm really suggesting is that the "royalty" part is the smallest piece of the pie.

Having grown up in the era of unfettered Commercial Christian Music (Corporate Christian Music?), I'm no fan. But I'd rather not project these concerns onto Fred's project. His collection and song choices interest me for other reasons, but the money angle seems (to me) like a rabbit trail of sorts.

Personally, I'd rather not express formal hymnody as a regression from the altruistic motives (and high culture) of Watts...down, down...to the supposed "commercial endeavor" (popular culture) of current church musicians.

In reality, money has always been part of the equation. I think the trick is to make sure it remains the smallest piece of the pie.

Bottom line? Hymnals almost never make money. Hymnal production is still driven by ideas--groups of people with a specific ideological agenda. Depending on which hymnal we're discussing, those ideas might be really bad ideas, and a valid way to evaluate a particular movement. I'm just questioning--in this case--whether money is the fundamental issue at stake.

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HMA

I am usually a lurker who doesn't have enough time even to be a good lurker, but this post and the comments caught my eye this morning. I thought as a member of the church where Fred Coleman is the music pastor, I could add a few comments. We appreciate Fred and Ruth Coleman very much. They work very hard, and the music ministry in our church is richer for their efforts. For several years now we have had frequent handouts/inserts in our church bulletins - handouts that look remarkably like the printed pages of the HMA hymnal! Most of us in the congregation did not know until nearly the point of the actual publication that Fred was working on this hymnal. I have not gone through the whole stack of bulletin inserts to see if everything we have been singing made its way into this collection. What's been amazing is how Fred comes up with songs that none of us knew, but that go perfectly with our pastor's message of the hour!!! I guess it really shouldn't be because Fred is probably one of the most knowledgeable men in the country when it comes to hymnology. Believe me when I say, we have sung some really old songs not found in the hymnals that most of us have access to. And we've sung lots of modern songs as well, as Greg put it, that are "fundy-friendly." My wife, who will readily admit that she is not a musician, has commented more than once, that it seems as if we are singing more and more songs that are either modern or "Gregorian chants."

To be honest, we have had people leave our church because they are not sure about the music or because they are certain that we're on the proverbial "slippery slope." But we've also had many new people come, no where near the majority of whom are young people. I'm a man who's on the verge of turning 60, and so I'll admit that the musical changes at church have been an adjustment for me. I appreciate that we can enjoy the spiritually enriching and challenging musical texts set in a style that does not distract someone of my age and background from focusing on those rich texts. The newer songs and, even as my wife puts it, the "Gregorian chants" point us to Christ, remind us of the greatness of God, and call us to seriously worship Him. That is a huge blessing in itself.

BTW, it's no surprise to me that Sam Horn has chosen to include HMA at Central, given his affiliation with Northland and Steve Pettit.

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HMA+

I meant to add to my comment that I am glad that the songs we've been blessed by are now available to others through this new publication.

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Rob,

rdl wrote:
I am usually a lurker who doesn't have enough time even to be a good lurker, but this post and the comments caught my eye this morning. I thought as a member of the church where Fred Coleman is the music pastor, I could add a few comments. We appreciate Fred and Ruth Coleman very much. They work very hard, and the music ministry in our church is richer for their efforts. For several years now we have had frequent handouts/inserts in our church bulletins - handouts that look remarkably like the printed pages of the HMA hymnal! Most of us in the congregation did not know until nearly the point of the actual publication that Fred was working on this hymnal. I have not gone through the whole stack of bulletin inserts to see if everything we have been singing made its way into this collection. What's been amazing is how Fred comes up with songs that none of us knew, but that go perfectly with our pastor's message of the hour!!! I guess it really shouldn't be because Fred is probably one of the most knowledgeable men in the country when it comes to hymnology. Believe me when I say, we have sung some really old songs not found in the hymnals that most of us have access to. And we've sung lots of modern songs as well, as Greg put it, that are "fundy-friendly." My wife, who will readily admit that she is not a musician, has commented more than once, that it seems as if we are singing more and more songs that are either modern or "Gregorian chants."

To be honest, we have had people leave our church because they are not sure about the music or because they are certain that we're on the proverbial "slippery slope." But we've also had many new people come, no where near the majority of whom are young people. I'm a man who's on the verge of turning 60, and so I'll admit that the musical changes at church have been an adjustment for me. I appreciate that we can enjoy the spiritually enriching and challenging musical texts set in a style that does not distract someone of my age and background from focusing on those rich texts. The newer songs and, even as my wife puts it, the "Gregorian chants" point us to Christ, remind us of the greatness of God, and call us to seriously worship Him. That is a huge blessing in itself.

BTW, it's no surprise to me that Sam Horn has chosen to include HMA at Central, given his affiliation with Northland and Steve Pettit.

1. Rob, you're almost 60? That makes me feel really old, my childhood neighbor. :-)
2. Your point about how we're singing really new songs ore really really old songs is a great one. I feel like it's a good thing that fundamentalism is moving away from a certain era of hymnody that was hyper emotional or just not very doctrinal. Believe it or not, but I visited Hampton Park for the first time in my life a few weeks ago and got to look through the hymnal and talk to Dr. Coleman and was very encouraged by it. If people really are leaving over this hymnal, then that's just sad. But from what I've heard you have a lot of young people, which is unusual for many fundamentalists churches these days. The future is there.

Shayne

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I'm very conservative in my preferences in Christian music. I was introduced to "How Deep the Father's Love" and "In Christ Alone" within the past year. (What can I say? I've been living in a cave.) My first reaction was one of an increased appreciation for what my Savior had done for me.

Last Sunday, I was preaching in a conservative church and quoted a stanza from "In Christ Alone" to illustrate a point. I was told afterward that some people were concerned that I was being exposed to "bad music". SIGH.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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"Bad Music"

Ron--I'll be this sort of thing has happened to many of the readers here.

I was interested in the HMA hymnal because of the editorial choices, which seemed to ignore the old "association" rule. In previous eras, we would evaluate the quality of a song based on the connections that the composer potentially had with various (new) evangelical movements.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but a BJU music prof of the 1970s would not have compiled a hymnal chock-full of songs that had "associations" with organizations and movements outside of fundamentalism. I forget which degree of separation that was, but whatever it was, we wouldn't have done it back in the day. If our position on musical associations is changing, and I feel it is, I would welcome the opportunity to evaluate songs on some basis other than who wrote it.

I'm with you--I was intrigued by the editor's choices, and found many of them to be useful in the context of church ministry. Granted, I would not use all of the songs in this book, but I would say that of any hymnal. Though I can understand how a Baptist church might value the traditional hymnody of Cantus Christi, I'm going to guess that such churches would not use every song in the book, especially in the section of (Reformed) baptismal hymns.

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Indeed...

Shaynus wrote:
1. Rob, you're almost 60? That makes me feel really old, my childhood neighbor. :-)
2. Your point about how we're singing really new songs ore really really old songs is a great one. I feel like it's a good thing that fundamentalism is moving away from a certain era of hymnody that was hyper emotional or just not very doctrinal. Believe it or not, but I visited Hampton Park for the first time in my life a few weeks ago and got to look through the hymnal and talk to Dr. Coleman and was very encouraged by it. If people really are leaving over this hymnal, then that's just sad. But from what I've heard you have a lot of young people, which is unusual for many fundamentalists churches these days. The future is there.

Shayne

Yes, indeed, I will turn 60 on the 30th of this month. 8-)

The people who have left over music concerns have not been just since the hymnal appeared in our pew racks. We've been singing these same songs for several years from inserts and on the screen, and the "leak" has been slow. You're right that it is encouraging to see a lot of young people in our church. Our demographics is/are (?) very balanced - we have people from all across the age spectrum.

Ron, I was in Christmas Carol last year with your son Dave. What a fine young man! I think very highly of him and Lindsay and wish I were able to be in the production with them again this year, but alas, I can't. I hope I can get tickets!!! Maybe "original cast members" might get to go at least once.

Rob

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Thanks for the kind words

Thanks for the kind words about my son, Rob. God has been good to us. (BTW, I'm older than you!)

Re: the "association" thing. How come I'm not an Arminian Methodist after all those years of singing Wesley's hymns? (TY to Jeff Straub.)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Other criteria, yes

Kevin wrote:
I would welcome the opportunity to evaluate songs on some basis other than who wrote it.

I'll second that.
I wouldn't go so far as to say the author/source is irrelevant, especially if he/she is currently famous or is part of some organization that is famous. Sovereign Grace would sort of qualify as "a really trendy group" (though I think recent events have put them more on the "just human after all" list--or maybe, for some, the "no longer hip" list).

So the trendiness of a composer/author or his hangouts would be a meaningful factor in my evaluation, but not at all the main factor. That factor would rarely make a difference to me if all the other factors are solid in the work itself.

A counterargument I often hear kind of goes like this: if you use songs by these people, Christians will think these sources are on the "OK people" list and get into their doctrine, etc. The problem with that is that I've never met anyone who actually thinks that way.... that people are either "OK people" who can be trusted to be right about everything or "not OK people" who are highly suspect about everything.

Anybody I meet who does think this way, I'd immediately and strongly encourage to recognize that there are no "OK people" who are perfect in every way. You have to evaluate all leaders and ministries by the authority of Scripture, not by the authority of whether they are accepted or rejected by certain fundamentalist leaders you trust.
(We are not free as believers to delegate discernment to a handful of leaders)

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