Sunday, May 8, 2011

It is important to pass down old, great hymns to next generation

It is important to pass down old, great hymns to next generation

The week before Easter, the students at our Christian school performed their annual spring program, which is usually a fairly lighthearted presentation and includes the most recent fine arts competition pieces. But this program was different — our school choral director presented a musical journey through the book of John. Dressed as the apostle himself, a senior young man narrated the program, and students of all ages, first grade through seniors, participated in singing great hymns and newer meaningful songs commemorating the sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior.

That night I saw that at times even for youngsters a serious program is a good thing. Observing more than 200 students sing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and other hymns like it, was not only a joy to hear, but also a demonstration of good theology being lodged in young minds.

The opposite occurred several years ago in a junior high English class as we looked at the words to Isaac Watts’ hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” When I asked for a show of hands as to which students were familiar with this powerful text, only two or three out of a class of 20 had ever even heard of it. Ditto the next class. And this was in a Christian school.

Are we remembering the importance of passing down the great hymns of the faith to the next generation? I am not suggesting throwing out all choruses, or lighter songs, or singing only old hymns. I am also not advocating the regeneration of every song of the last century currently in the hymnbooks — some of them are quite insipid. However, along with anything else our children are learning to sing, parents, grandparents and teachers should be exposing youngsters to the deep truths present in such classics as “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” and many more.

Even teens can see the difference. As my dear friend Nancy said to her girls’ Bible class, and they agreed: “Yes, there is a difference between the generations that will always be present. But, to sing ‘Jesus is cool, He reigns and rules,’ is just not equivalent to singing ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.’”

And depth is not just a function of past writers. Newer hymns are being written that are also full of wonderful meaning. “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” and “In Christ Alone” immediately come to mind.

Furthermore, hymns are an enduring thread running through church history. Knowing that Christians throughout the centuries have sung the same rich songs should bind our hearts together and help transmit to our children and grandchildren the spiritual heritage that has been passed down more than 2,000 years. Martin Luther, St. Francis of Assisi, the Wesleys, Fanny Crosby — all are hymnwriters from various ages whose work is too rich to lose. We cannot allow the next generation to think that their faith exists alone!

It is a huge tragedy if we do not pass down the theology and history of past great hymnwriters to our children. As Steve Green sings in “Find Us Faithful,” “May the fire of our devotion light their way!”


Terry said...

If you remember it wasn't too long ago that the independent baptist criticized the southern baptists and community churchers about booting out the hymns and going with newer popular music. My how times have changed. Perhaps some of our progressive independent friends should step back and implement their own advice. Just because it is new doesn't make it good. Before we throw out the old let's all examine what the replacement is!

Carrie said...

Hymnology was one of the most valuable classes I ever had! And "things learned in song are remembered long." I agree with your thoughts :)

Lynn said...

Great thoughts, Ann. I agree. I chuckled at the irony of closing out your thoughts about keeping the great old hymns alive with a quote by Steve Green :) I love you!!!