Published June 14, 2016

Paul's Epistle
"Hymns – Your Responses"

Last week's column was about the value of the classic hymns, and it was, actually, a followup to the recent "all-hymns" edition of the broadcast (aired the weekend of June 4th).

That column generated more responses than any other in quite a while, and they were overwhelmingly in agreement that the classic hymns have so much more spiritual depth and value than much of what's passing for church music these days.

Here are just a few representative comments from readers:

"Paul, I am in agreement with you on the hymns. Hate to see the deep songs of the past give way to some pretty shallow music, much of which is not even singable by the congregation. It disturbs me to see many in the church with arms folded, refusing even to try to sing, because the music doesn't even flow well. Yet, many of the choruses may give way, for a few moments, to a hymn, and suddenly those folks will perk up and start singing again. Worship leaders should take note." – Pastor Gary F.

"Thank you, thank you for [the all-hymns program]! We were making a two-hour drive and sang along the whole way! ... The messages are so rich with biblical theology and many have great stories of what inspired the writer..." – Joyce & Lewis C.

"Sure enjoyed the beautiful hymns... They have a way to speak to my heart and mind! I'm one of the generation who grew up singing hymns in church although I didn't appreciate them as much then as I do now..." – Donna B., Dillsburg, PA

"...That was one of the best. Yes, I sang right along with it and was surprised I could remember words to hymns I hadn't sung in years. A friend called me after it was over and said, ‘How did you like that program?' Her sentiments are the same as mine... I do hope it will become a more regular feature..." – Esther A., Williamsport, PA

"I am in a church which I love dearly and it helps me so much being involved there, but I hate the music. It is a source of great irritation and puts me in a rotten mood before the preaching even starts. Even after the pastor told the ‘worship leader' to include two older (hymns, specifically) songs in his presentation, he deliberately altered the words and changed the tune as to make it unrecognizable. The music is our church has become a performance from the couple on stage and completely excludes the congregation..." – M. W.

"My husband has stopped going to our regular church because we no longer sing the hymns and everything's ‘on the wall.' We don't read from the Bible, it's ‘up on the wall.' We don't know the new songs that are being sung, along with many of the older people. And many have trouble reading the words. I also find myself nodding off because the sanctuary lights are dimmed so we can read ‘off the wall.' People in the congregation bought new hymnals and Bibles not too long ago and dedicated them to family members. Now we don't use them, and we feel we wasted our money. It's a shame..." – Judi L.

"It was so good to hear music that I was raised on and we sang from the books instead of off the wall. ... Our younger generation needs to hear those old songs that are such a blessing and have spiritual strength in them." – Peggy from Missouri

"Hymns are proclaiming who God is and what He will and can do for us. They are many times a bold statement of faith which calls us to action. Praise and worship songs do not even mention who they are referencing many times. I read the whole lyric and wonder who are they writing about if they never mention His name?" – Martin G., Houston, TX

"I fondly enjoy singing songs that I can hear and know the words to. In our church I have instructed my worship leaders to always use a hymn in every service. They are learning some of these old hymns that are new to them as I am learning some of the newer songs and choruses which are new to me... I do want our people to learn and know the wonderful hymns of the past... The old ones have meat to chew on rather than lots of broth. Songs in the night to me are always the old hymns..." – Pastor John Keefer

Let me paraphrase what Gerald Wolfe said on the broadcast: "So many older people today feel like ‘forsaken saints' because the churches no longer sing their music." And the newer music, intended to bring in youth, as one reader wrote, "doesn't seem to be working in our case." And all church attenders — of all ages — are losing the blessing inherent in actually singing strong songs of faith. There is just something powerful about personally verbalizing the deep thoughts in these classic hymns.  In fact, based on a friend's personal experience, some churches' ‘worship music' is so loud that it's impossible even to know whether or not the congregation is singing along at all.

One more thing. We visited a church recently with "off the wall" singing, and the first song that came up with lyrics projected on the wall showed eight lines of "ah ah ah ah." And then those eight lines were repeated. What a blessing.

- Paul

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