October 14, 2009

Singing Our Songs--Reader Reaction

Because of the scores of letters from readers we’ve received in regard to Roy Adams’ cover feature “Singing Our Songs,” we have decided to run a special “reader response” spread that encapsulates the thoughts, questions, and concerns posed by our readers on this topic.—Editors.
We Agree
A Just this morning I was able to read your article ?in the August 20 Adventist Review under the title “Singing Our Songs.” I just had to write and thank you so much for the wonderful piece. We could go right along with all the experiences of music in our churches. It is a great article, and we are also encouraged to learn more of the good old hymns.

Ed Heisler
Dallas, Oregon

A Roy Adams’ article “Singing Our Songs” was exceptional. I have suggested to our pastor that we use it for Sabbath vespers. Wintley Phipps’ reference to ditties was great. However, I call them 7-11 songs. They choose seven words and sing them 11 times and call it praise music. Give me “God of Our Fathers” with a trumpet trio or “He Lives.”
Fran Schleicher
Palm Springs, California
A Thank you for telling it like it is. Many of the so-called praise songs are self-centered (one uses the personal pronoun 26 times), some imply that God is on an ego trip, and others are theologically suspect and are sung by only about half of the congregation.

What a great article! It could also be titled “The Way It Ought to Be.” Thanks again.
Roger Eno
Dassel, Minnesota

Expanding Horizons
A “Singing Our Songs” is a valuable reminder to take advantage of the incredible tool we have in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. It has been a concern to see congregations and individuals settle for singing a few well-worn hymns again and again while ignoring the riches available to them. Many times complaints have been made for choosing unknown hymns such as “Father, Lead Me Day by Day” or “Marvelous Grace.” Why are they unknown? Roy Adams’ article has inspired me to a renewed dedication to educating my churches in their knowledge of our hymns.

In writing about the initial hymn, No. 648, Adams wrote in a footnote, “The wording in our hymnal (‘the love that asks the ?reason’) does not seem to make sense,” and so in his article reverted back to the original wording, “the love that asks no question.” Perhaps our hymnal editors recognized that patriotism is not a blind act. History is replete with examples when the church failed society by going along with whatever it wanted to do (e.g., Nazi Germany). Instead, a patriotism is envisioned where for the sake of the country God’s people want to know why certain actions are being promoted, and are willing to question actions or motivations excluded by God’s Word. The revised wording makes perfect sense to me.
Bob Lawson
Cottonwood, Arizona
Why didn’t I see that? Good catch! I think you ?are correct.?—Roy Adams.

A Why, O why, do writers for the Review have to use the word “should”? Isn’t there some better way to ?get the basic message across without adding the guilt trip method to a basically great article?

I have played the organ or piano since I was in eighth grade in our Seventh-day Adventist churches in several areas of the United States. Different areas, I have noticed, use different hymns. It is just this attitude that drives our youth away!
Dawn Mantle
Ferndale, Washington

A Thank you so much for your article. I have been raised a Seventh-day Adventist and am nearing 60 years of age. More and more, for the past 20 years, the hymns have been replaced with campfire songs. It feels like settling into a diet of cotton candy and bubble gum. I miss the mashed potatoes and gravy. May I suggest that if the hymns seem lifeless, it is not the hymns that have died.
Youth leaders are trying to reach the young people, but may I observe that for 6,000 years previous to this, young people have grown up to love the God and worship style of their fathers. To the very young there is nothing with which to compare. The “old-fashioned” songs are actually new to these bright-eyed enthusiasts who love Jesus. I have seen 9- and 10-year-olds learn to love hymns after someone took the time to teach them the meaning of the words.

New is not all bad, though. Every hymn was new once upon a time!
Cal Shrock
Montague, California

The Power of Music
A I was thrilled to read this article about what we sing in church. We do need to understand the power of uplifting songs that send messages right to our hearts and minds. I believe what we sing greatly impacts the soul with spiritual value.
I am acquainted with a new member who was practically driven out of the church shortly after baptism by people who had a lot to say about new songs. It seems it was preferable for them to hear music that made their feet tap and worked up their emotions rather than music with the potential to lift people to the throne of God in worship. The words to his music contained our fundamental beliefs, but they were written by a new Christian. Perhaps that was the problem—even though a professional musician he was too “new” to have a say in the music used for worship.
That person is out of the church today. Though I see nothing happening right now, I’m hoping he will turn back once more to the beliefs that were once his pride.
Name Withheld

A I congratulate Roy Adams on two fronts. First, he somehow managed to write an article about singing in church that should not trigger another round of volley and response in the worship wars. Second, his article is a necessary reminder that though our hymnal is nearly 25 years old, there are many wonderful gems in it that remain largely unused in our churches. He encourages our Adventist musicians to prepare more good hymns, and yet several stirring tunes and texts written or arranged by our church musicians lie almost untouched in the hymnal.
The good news for lovers of congregational song is that new and beautiful hymns, with interesting harmonies and rhythms, and edifying, contemporary texts, continue to be written and published at a fast pace. Adams is correct that we probably do not need a new hymnal just yet, even though ours lacks the cultural breadth that undoubtedly a new one would present. Better to use more wisely and fully the one we have and to supplement it with well-chosen selections composed in the past quarter century, as he suggests.
As has been observed before: every “old favorite” was once upon a time brand-new!
Jeff Bromme
Longwood, Florida

A I say “Amen” to Roy Adams’ article on hymn singing. Contemporary worship has largely discarded the use of the hymnal, while many traditionalists sing from only a very limited repertoire. The hymnal is a treasury of great music and poetry drawn from various periods and peoples, expressing every aspect of Christian living, from doctrines to personal experience. There are hymns to express every emotion and need. Often our pathway would be brightened if we would sing our way out of our troubles!
Beatrice Neall
Ooltewah, Tennessee

Practicing Now for Then
A Thank you to Roy Adams for drawing our attention to No. 648 in our hymnal. This noble tune has become one of my favorites as well. I, too, spent the last Sabbath of August 1997 in Scotland, and my plans changed on that Sunday as I followed along with the many that made their way down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to Holyroodhouse to place their flowers and tributes for Princess Diana at the gates of the palace.
We have many other untouched gems in our current hymnal. Perhaps we could introduce one new hymn to our congregations each month—surely this wouldn’t be too difficult. It is sad that we often gravitate toward only the old and familiar. Isaiah 42:10 tells us to “sing to the Lord a new song”; in Revelation 14:3 we are told we will sing a new song before the throne. Maybe we could begin by practicing here on earth.

Betsy Ross
Mountain View, Arkansas

This article was published October 15, 2009.