Hymnal Review - Hymns Modern & Ancient

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.)

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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There are 69 Comments

Jeff Straub's picture

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

Jeff Straub's picture

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

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)

Brent Marshall's picture

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

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

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.

Charlie's picture

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

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Todd Mitchell's picture

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.

Jeff Straub's picture

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

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? Smile
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)

Jay's picture

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

DavidO's picture

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.

Scott Aniol's picture

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 
Executive Director Religious Affections Ministries
Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

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?

GregH's picture

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.

Jay's picture

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

GregH's picture

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.

DavidO's picture

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.

mounty's picture

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?

Greg Linscott's picture

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
Marshall, MN

GregH's picture

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?

Greg Linscott's picture

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
Marshall, MN

KevinM's picture

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!

Aaron Blumer's picture

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!)

Greg Linscott's picture

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
Marshall, MN

GregH's picture

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

Greg Linscott's picture

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
Marshall, MN

KevinM's picture

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!

Greg Linscott's picture

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
Marshall, MN

Jay's picture

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

Larry's picture

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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