By The Very Rev. George Conger,
We like to make a joyful noise at Shepherd of the Hills. Music is one of the glories of our church. We are blessed by talented music ministers: Bill Kinley, Sol Asekun and David Blain and the choir enrich our worship and strengthen our faith through their talents.
It is important that we not take them for granted. Not too long ago, hymn-singing was found in almost every church on Sundays. Church choirs and corporate hymn singing were considered one of the essentials of Sunday worship. But today many churches have retired their choirs. The reasons are varied. Some churches have turned to modern entertainment style worship music with vocalists, while others have been unable to attract new choristers leading to the eventual elimination of the choir. Whatever the reason, churches are the poorer for the change.
What does hymnody – hymn singing – provide? It is not just entertainment.
Hymns teach theology. It’s been said that we are what we sing. Hymn-singing adds an additional dimension to the teaching ministry of our church. It is a second sermon – yet delivered in a different language. Churches that close their hymnals and turn to light entertainment music in its place are robbing the congregation. If the songs we sing don’t inform, enrich, or edify our faith, they simply aren’t worth singing.
Hymns also allow us to connect with the message of Jesus Christ. In many modern churches – the big box mega churches we see on television — contemporary worship sometimes appears to be inauthentic and flippant – “happy clappy” the critics say. The best hymns of the past and present allow for a more honest, more natural response to the suffering we see around us. And during the darkest (and happiest) times of my life, I feel my faith is all the better for having the great hymns of faith in my head, heart, and mouth, because they gave me a heightened language for articulating the good news of Christ’s gospel.
Hymns also connect us to other believers. When we sing hymns together, we are uniting with those around us in a corporate, sensory experience. When we sing hymns of the past, we are sharing in faith with those who have gone before us. Our voices join the chorus of Christians, who throughout the ages have sung hymns of praise to God.
As Christians, we are part of a long drama of creation and redemption that will carry on until the day of resurrection, when all will be set aright. Until then, we come together as God’s people, singing, speaking, preaching, and praying so that we might be remade further into Christ’s likeness.
Hymn-singing keeps us focused on the essentials of the Christian life. By allowing the witness of previous generations into our worship, we are presented with a more complete picture of what it means to be a person of faith in our own time. And along with new hymns of our own creation, we pass on the faith of the saints who’ve gone before to our children and children’s children.
God has blessed us at SOTH with wonderful music led by talented and spiritually alive men and women. Let us do all we can to support this important work – it is one of the things that makes this church special.