I am a Doctor of Sacred Music candidate, and this topic of a new hymnal is one that definitely catches my interest. I have been a choral director in such diverse faith communities as Unitarian, Baptist, Community Christian, United Church of Christ Congregational, Methodist, and of course, my own Seventh-day Adventist. Because of those varying experiences, I have learned so many new and wonderful hymns which have expanded and enriched my personal worship, not only as a choir director, but also as a congregant. I don’t believe the core of the issue is the worthiness of the genre of praise songs, but rather an examining of what has been available in our denominational hymnody to see if “house-cleaning”, culling, paring down, and bringing in new and worthwhile hymns/songs might be in order. As homeowners, we manage the upkeep of our residences with repairs, paint, and refreshing changes of decor when what we have becomes worn and increasingly less serviceable, likewise with our vehicles, our places of worship, our clothing. There are Biblical injunctions for us to “sing a new song to the Lord!” Perhaps it IS time to take stock of what we have been using in our congregational worship music, part with what is not being used, look for, examine, then add what is new, worthwhile and of lasting quality.
Welcome @TeLeKo. Hope you enjoy the conversations on this site. It keeps you busy with often challenging opinions. Be well.
Modern day praise music has been around Adventism for at least 30 years! It was brought in to “keep” the youth! Results - the youth haven’t stayed anyway (some yes, but many not). My perception his that praise music today mostly reaches those who were 18-20 in 1975-1980.
And, BTW, why do we only “praise” God during the praise songs? Not at any other time during worship?
Robin, since this is Spectrum, do you mind if I challenge your thinking about about “praise music”?
As to my biases. I’m a 50’s something guy who likes modern music and I worship in a space that uses modern instruments. I certainly like hymns and my most special memories are singing my children to sleep with Amazing Grace and I Come To the Garden. I’m not at all saying that hymns are bad. But, I also like other music.
You’ve made some assumptions about what modern praise music is like. “7 words, repeated 11 times” in a “non melodic, non harmonious, non lyrical dirge like tune”.
That’s not my experience. In fact, many modern praise songs often use the ability to get away from a basic - harmony and 4 stanzas with a the same chorus to provide deeply meaningful verses, that cause a person to reflect upon the character of God and their relationship with Him.
I’ll also note that if you attend a black church, including a black SDA church, you’ll find a wealth and richness of gospel music enjoyed by Christians of all ages, a music informed by an experience that may be far different from your own, but no less relevant. This music doesn’t fit into any established notion of "hymn versus “praise” music, but provides it’s own spiritual, musical path to worship God.
I’m not trying to convince you that you should switch your musical tastes. I am suggesting that before you condemn how someone chooses to worship musically, you might understand why that works for them.
In closing, I’ll leave you with this. It may not be to your taste, but certainly a way that some people use music to get close to Jesus.
Gospel music, SDA folk songs (the songs sung by Pathfinders and young people in Sabbath School), and praise music have not found entry in the Hymnal. We have a few liturgical hymns, like Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, but no Seventh-day Adventist church that I know of has a liturgical form of worship. Some hymns barely rise above the level of a musical joke, like Finlandia, that is, Be Still My Soul. Some hymns are offensive, such as Onward, Christian Soldiers. Most hymns are sermonizing limericks, but some chestnuts of high-quality poetry can be found, such as O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (last stanza). Overall, the musical quality of our hymns is relatively low. The genre reflects a Protestant desire to satisfy the least common denominator, the common man as it were, one who is not an elitist, one who has no musical taste. The genre also reflects a Protestant aversion to aesthetics.
I only listen to high-quality music. Some of it is sacred, some of it is not, but all of it is heart-grippingly orgasmic. As I write this, I am listening to Im Abendrot by Strauss, sung by Anja Harteros accompanied by Mariss Jansons and his orchestra. Eyethink2, I did deign to listen to Reckless Love that you posted, but it is hideous and I shall not be assaulted by it again.
Humanism should predominate in Seventh-day Adventism, but we are often neglectful in teaching others how to enjoy the finer things in life. Consequently, the signature dish of SDAs has historically been haystacks, which is best served by a shovel, rather than food of culinary excellence that one might learn how to prepare at Le Cordon Bleu. This week I had dinner at Spago in Beverly Hills, and while this was not a revelatory experience for me, I told Lynne and Rachel that as far as my culinary choices are concerned the times they are a’changin. At a recent party, while others were watching a couple of animals in a boxing ring, I was getting sneak peaks on my I-phone of the baseball game. Rather than play solitaire or video games, I play chess and do the NY Times Crossword puzzle. Granted, I have a long ways to go. But shouldn’t we all aspire to personal excellence? And isn’t this remarkable essay by my good friend a reflection of a desperate impatience with the mediocrity, flagrant as it often is, that we witness in our worship services and in our faith community in general?
In the constant criticism of the repetitiveness of praise music, no one ever mentions that the Hallelujah Chorus repeats the word 144 times in the space of several minutes. As a trained musician, I recognize the wonderful counterpoint and the sheer artistry of Handel, but the fact remains that there is much repetition of words and phrases within that piece, and in the form of the oratorio in general. And, Handel was also criticized for the popular nature of his sacred music, and for pandering to the public. But that seems to get forgotten when praise music is being taken to task.
There is bad praise music and good praise music, bad classical music and good, and good as well as bad hymns in the Adventist hymnal. Quality is quality, and dreck is dreck, no matter what the form. The hymnal needs an update. Plenty of sub-standard quality music can be thrown out…and there are certainly a number of badly written melodies and songs in the book. I’m also sure that plenty of good music that would represent a far broader cultural perspective than white, European based hymnody could be included.
That’s my take, at least.
I hadn’t thought of this, but I do agree. That may explain why I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with some of these songs. As a woman who grew up in a problematic household, eroticism really shouldn’t be a part of our worship. And men who see themselves as God within their household may not see it as “drivel” but pick up other connotations.
Come on Frank… I am also a trained (but no longer practicing) musician. I studied Cello for 7 years along with all musical theory, etc., including some conducting. I played and sang that Hallelujah Chorus literally tens of times while still in school. That’s SO different from some repetitious exercise, repeating “And the sun is very bright” at least 17 + 3 times accompanied by a cheap guitar played by someone who does not even play it, just bangs on some chords, with a very loud drum’s noise background.
Well, I guess this is just my opinion and personal taste for music…
Perhaps that’s why there are very few younger people in Adventist churches, because virtually everything in church setting is arrange to please and satisfy the preferences of the older generation.
Why not have both? Or have a separate service for younger generation that addresses their needs and preferences?
Some of the older hymns sound like a horror show if you really listen to the lyrics.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners flock beneath the flood, lose all their guilty stains.
That’s a horrifying nightmare context, but we seldom think about modern implication of some of these hyperbolic expressions of faith.
I always supported that.
Likewise, why not write new hymns that speak to our modern experience? Use the same tunes and music and rhythmic and melodic patterns, but get the lyrics freshened up to where these don’t seem like these were written by people who are fetishising the linguistic conventions of Victorian era.
I was sat in a camp meeting communion service last night and it suddenly struck me what we were referring to when singing What Will Wash Away My Sin
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
I suddenly had the graphic mental image of a main artery being severed and the blood spurting forth. As many have pointed out, we definitely take the metaphor of blood far too literally - seen in hymn 302 which depicts a bloody drowning
Deeper yet, deeper yet,
Into the crimson flood;
Deeper yet, deeper yet,
Under the precious blood.
No they “ vote with their feet ”
because the young women get the message loud and clear that they are second class citizens in Adventism
because the young men do not like their mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers being second class citizens
because, they do not like their gay / lesbian friends treated shabbily and shamefully by Adventism
EGALITARIANISM is live and well in the millennial generation and Adventism “ does not cut the mustard “
Yes, I support that. Some hymns are actually outdated even for funerals! Too slow and depressive.
I like vibrant, uplifting music in church.
I also like moderate jazz, but not in church.
At my church the vice-chairman of the board is a young woman! I doubt she thinks the church considers her second class! And, BTW, our church is completely accepting of LGBT people. Are you informed about the La Sierra University Church with its “Kinship Sabbath School” and statement of inclusivity adopted by the Board? With all due respect, sir, I believe your perspective is not wholly accurate. Adventism has problems, but there are more and more pastors and churches that are courageously changing that!
We don’t all have the same personality.
We don’t all have the same taste in food, clothes, entertainment, etc.
So why should we all have the same taste in music?
I like some contemporary music - for instance “How deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend. But I also love the profound words of hymns like “Immortal Love, Forever Full”.
As I looked around church this morning during the “praise” songs, I observed that less than half of the people were singing. At the end of the service when we sang “When We All Get to Heaven” more people were singing and the singing had more energy!
That’s true, LSUC is inclusive. And the building was not yet destroyed… I was there this morning again! All is well…
The leader of our denomination, mere weeks ago, was actively
campaigning against the EQUALITY ACT that would have ensured protections for our LGBT members, against housing and job discrimination — still rampant in many US states, with zero legal recourse.
Our church has a long way to go in equality for our LGBT group.
TW’s largest compliance committee is consumed with a witch hunt against the LGBT group.
Yes, there are a few “ outliers “ like La Sierra —a paucity of churches — who defy the denominational bias.
If an openly gay couple were to attend a mid western or rural southern SDA church, the unwelcoming body language would be extremely apparent.
As long as our denomination denies equal status to our clergywomen,
no amount of female church board representation will compensate for this misogyny.
What percentage of NAD churches even allow women elders.??
I was visiting a church near a vacation home that I own, and wanting to donate to their church remodeling budget, I quietly asked how many female elders were in the congregation.
The woman of whom I asked the question responded with such negative vehemence, telling me there were none, that my pocket book instantly slammed shut! I now attend a splendid Sunday church, with senior woman pastor, when on that island.