It is early on a Sunday morning and I am listening to a cd of old hymns.
There are many Christians who wouldn’t know a classic old hymn if they fell over it. The churches they attend only play the current contemporary songs – some which are wonderful but many are formulaic, and the worst are the “Jesus is my Boyfriend” type which only requires a slight tweak to become a contemporary secular song.
What do we lose by not singing historical hymns?
1. We lose the history of the church. We relegate the great movements in the church to the dust pile. The medieval hymn “O sacred head now wounded”, possibly written by Bernard of Clairvaux, is an insight into the heart and soul of our medieval brothers and sisters as they contemplated and reflected on the death of their/our saviour. In the Geneva of the Reformation a passion for the Psalms was renewed under the glow of the Reformation. And how else could we understand the heart of a regenerated slaver if it wasn’t for “Amazing Grace”.
2. We lose our connection with the saints of the past – their stories and journeys in the Kingdom. In other words we lose perspective. “It is well with my soul” also known as “When peace like a river” is the response of Horatio Spafford after first losing everything in the Chicago fire of 1871 and then losing his four daughters when their ship sank travelling to Europe. It is a testament to faith and trust under enormous personal hardship. If we don’t sing that hymn we are the losers.
3. I believe the worst aspect of failing to recognise the great hymns of the past is that we, in our C21st arrogance, make ourselves the centre of history and the universe rather than just seeing ourselves as a group of fellow pilgrims journeying over the centuries as we prepare for the return of the King.