Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hymnology with enthusiastic high schoolers

April 6, 2009, I spent the entire day with a group of some of the finest high school young men and women I have met in a single group. Gospel Outreach of Olympia, an erstwhile pentecostal church and school, started during the 1970s Jesus Movement, ask me to come and teach a full day on Christian hymns, hymn writers, and on how to write hymns.

There is something refreshing about a room full of wholesome, enthusiastic, well-groomed (guys in neat khakis and navy polos, girls in classic tartan skirts, white blouses and sweater vests), hands in the air, thoughtful questions, meanigful comments and feedback. What a delightful bunch!

The sponsering church terms itself now, not pentecostal, but a Reformational church, and are hungry for the deep truths of the gospel and for sung worship appropriate to its grand object. I began with Psalm 98, emphasizing throughout the central importance of the Psalms shaping and informing all "new songs" we contribute to the Church's worship (Click here for more hymns of the New Reformation: Then we read Colossians 3:16, and examined the three functions of Psalms and hymns: codify doctrine, unify the church in every age, and glorify God. We discussed specific ways these three functions of hymns have been supplanted in recent years by postconservative, entertainment objectives.

I used Isaac Watts (Jesus Shall Reign, Alas and Did My Savior Bleed, and When I Survey the Wonderous Cross), Anna Waring, and then (with apologies) several of my own efforts. I explained the theological and imaginative thinking going on in my own head and heart as I work at writing a hymn. I also explained that it was not pumbing; there is no simple formula for writing poetry of any kind, and certainly none for a hymn, not for one that might find its way into the enduring canon of what Christians at their best would want to offer to God in sung worship.

We listened and read Creator God, Our Sovereign Lord, and King Jesus Reigns. Listen below.

Click here to read full text of these and other hymns of the New Reformation:

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