Saturday, 15 March 2008

Hymns for the People

I was having a chat with some friends about my last blog and learned that Nigel Wright, the Principal of Spurgeon's College 'teaches' a traditional hymn every Wednesday at prayers. Well done Nigel! I guess this says something significant about the music/worship culture. I've always used the basic principle of choosing the best of the new as well as the best of the old - yes, I know that it begs the question of whose 'best', and this in itself requires some careful attention. But I recognise that using the best of the old is becoming a non-issue in many contemporary churches.

One project which never really took off but I thought was fantastic was the publication of 'Hymns for the People'. It was edited by David Peacock and came out of the Jubilate Group which were responsible for 'Hymns for Today's Church' and a host of other creative worship resources. It described itself as 'Much love traditional hymns, with words sensitively revised and music in a contemporary style'. For the purists, some words remained unchanged! It also included some great brand new hymns.

Of course it raised the question of 'what is a hymn?' and in the preface David Peacock defined a hymn as 'a text that develops a theme in logical sequence.' He deliberately avoided it by its musical characteristics.

I value this resource highly, even more so as sadly it's no longer available. While I appreciate shorter songs, whether they come from the new churches, Taizé, Iona, or the World Church, the way that I'm wired up means that certainly towards the beginning of a worship service I need something which says it with substance, and says it well.

In the conversation with friends we spoke about the hymn, 'O God beyond all praising'. The tune is by Gustav Holst and is taken from 'The Planets - Jupiter'; the words are by Michael Perry and include some gems; and the arrangement in 'Hymns for the People', to be played 'with dignity', is by my good friend Chris Norton. What more could you want? Actually, whenever I sing it, I want to sing it again!

In case you don't know it, here are the words:

O God beyond all praising,
We worship You today,
And sing the love amazing
That songs cannot repay;
For we can only wonder
At every gift you send,
At blessings without number
And mercies without end:
We lift our hearts before You
And wait upon Your word,
We honour and adore You,
Our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
Accept the love we bring,
That we who know Your favour
May serve You as our King;
And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless You still:
To marvel at Your beauty
And glory in Your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise!

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