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  1. William Noel
    27 June 2016 @ 1:43 pm

    Lawrence,

    It is interesting to see how the church pioneers used song. Where some hymns have a timeless message, others are very dated. For example, though it is a grand hymn, Martin Luther’s words to “Faith of our Fathers” can hardly be considered relevant today as they talk about “in spite of dungeon, fire and sword.”

    Six times in Psalms, David talks about singing a new song to God. Isaiah 42:10 echoes David’s words about singing a new song to God. Twice in Revelation it talks about the elders and creatures in heaven worshiping God with with a new song. But, how often do you hear a new song in an Adventist worship service? We sing a lot of new songs at my home church and I have come to appreciate many contemporary Christian songs because of how they express the feelings of my heart to God. So when I’m visiting another church, sometimes I can hardly wait for the tepid, energy-less singing to end so I can get in the car and start listening to songs that put some energy and topical relevance into praising God.

    • Hansen
      29 June 2016 @ 8:11 am

      William, Luther didn’t write that song.

      • William Noel
        29 June 2016 @ 11:09 am

        Hansen,

        You could be right because some old hymns have curious histories.

        Some years ago, I was attending a church where we had a film-maker who was working on producing a documentary about Martin Luther and the project got expanded into a second film about his music and he credited it to Luther. He credited it to Luther and I was in a singing group that went to a recording studio in Nashville one day to record the song for the movie’s sound track.

        Luther was a curious character when it came to music because he was not a composer and he enjoyed going out drinking on Saturday nights (hence the tradition of the 11 o’clock worship hour because that’s when he had sobered-up enough to stand and preach). He wrote at least a couple verses to Faith of our Fathers (though I couldn’t tell you which ones) and he is credited with putting those words to a popular bar song to give us the basic tune we know today (talk about a conversion!). A number of the hymns he wrote were like that: spiritual verse sung to a popular tune.

    • Patricia Harvey
      03 July 2016 @ 11:34 pm

      Now I fully understand what Jesus meant when He called us Laodicea. Most of the old hymns left us in no doubt about who we are. The contemporary ones are like macaroons: all sugar and no substance. But I wonder if the author researched the word, “peculiar”; or did he just go with the informal, everyday belief that it means merely “odd”, and “strange”. Here are the real meanings which we throw away: own; of one’s own; belonging exclusively; privately owned; appropriated; preserved; characteristic; special; very particular. {CHAMBERS DICTIONARY] i DON’T KNOW ABOUT OTHERS, but I get quite a kick from being seen by God in this light. So I love my wonderful old songs and bask in the excitement that comes back when congregations learn in five minutes: They Come From the East and West; Hasten On, Glad Day; Watchman Blow the Gospel Trumpet; Look For the Waymarks; Christ or Barabbas [children] Lifetime is Working Time; Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appears, How Cheering Is the Christian’s Hope, Holy Day, Jehovah’s Rest. I hate the wishy-washy mouthings that match our lukewarm condition of loving smooth things: the 4-7-11: four lines, seven words repeated eleven times; the hypocritical adoptions that make us uniform with other Christians and the world the abandonment of our pillars of the faith for error; the undermining of the Sabbath by combining it with Sunday worship and Easter, etc. We are truly poor to the taste.

      • William Noel
        04 July 2016 @ 6:16 am

        Patricia,

        Since the hymns you prefer make a statement about your faith, what are your hymn selections saying about your relationship with God? A faith that is growing demands new expressions because the old hymns are no longer adequate to express your continually growing experience with God. A faith that is static and falling behind in ability to meet the demands of change is comfortable with the old.

  2. Loren Seibold
    28 June 2016 @ 2:18 pm

    I’ve often thought that hymns have been our biggest concession to ecumenism, at least since the 1941 hymnal. We disapproved of the churches around us in so many other ways. But we sang their hymns.

    • Gustavo Guzman
      01 July 2016 @ 6:52 am

      Yes we sing their himns because the christian faith is not adventist only and those that have been touched buy the H.E. and have expressed it well we must unite with them at that point . if we leave the himnal to adventist only it will not be complete

    • Patricia Harvey
      03 July 2016 @ 11:37 pm

      Totally agreed, Loren Seibold. Totally agreed. And we are changing it again.

  3. Nathan Schilt
    29 June 2016 @ 7:27 am

    I like this article, Larry. It’s fun and interesting. Thank you.

    I smiled to myself when I read it the second time, wondering: Has Larry substituted proof-lyrics for proof-texts? I love looking at the lyrics to songs my spiritual forebears sang. But let’s be careful about what inferences we draw, even if we can be confident that service oriented hymns have not been deliberately excluded from the mix in order to make the point.

    First of all, isn’t the nature of hymn singing praise and worship? I’m not sure community service songs are any more prevalent now than they were then.

    Second, to my understanding, early Advent believers were not affluent. primarily in rural areas where life was hard and uncertain. There was no surplus time or money.

    Third, the belief in the imminent Second Coming rendered the improvement of earthly kingdom conditions relatively unimportant for the early believers. After all, if you believed that destruction of the earth was imminent, how much effort would spend on wealth redistribution?

    Finally, as the Church matured and settled in for the “long haul,” it became far more invested in community service. Ellen White had much to say about its importance. And I’m not sure that the hymns changed all that much.

    So, Larry, I’d have to say that your hypothesis is still, at best, highly speculative. But thanks for offering it.

    • William Noel
      29 June 2016 @ 11:18 am

      Nathan,

      My wife and I were attending the Thousand Oaks Church in California when the current hymnal was released and one day in Sabbath School we had a presentation by a member of the selection committee. They had quite a challenge balancing the various demands and competing ideas people had about what should or should not be included and I came away admiring their ability to even produce a hymnal in light of those different ideas. One of the committee’s primary purposes was to make the hymnal more relevant and I think they did a good job. Still, I think the volume of great contemporary hymn-writing since then has rendered it outdated. So, it it time to convene a new committee to produce a new hymnal? Or, as has happened at my church, be largely ignored in favor of some really beautiful and topically-relevant contemporary songs. I vote for the latter because of how much I have been blessed by the newer music.

      • Nathan Schilt
        30 June 2016 @ 8:40 am

        I’m rather old fashioned when it comes to music for congregational singing. My preferences run toward traditional ennobling, uplifting hymns and feel-good, harmony filled gospel songs. I confess that I don’t pay much attention to lyrics, though contemporary, repetitive Mother Goose lyrics performed by heavily amplified bands, undermine worship for me. I find the music to be primarily an exercise in self-indulgent hypnosis by wannabe mediocre musicians.

        To me, very little of what is touted as good, true or beautiful deserves that label unless it has stood the test of time. Worship is trans-generational. The canon of religious music of Western Civilization has been refined and consolidated over hundreds of years. Most generations don’t produce very many great of enduring hymns. We should not expect it to occur in our generation. When it comes to worship and praise music, new is usually not better.

        • Nathan Schilt
          30 June 2016 @ 9:02 am

          Continued… My wife and I regularly attend services at two local churches. Loma Linda University Church is quite traditional. It has a large senior congregation. But boy, do they sing! Great organ music, great choir, and you can actually hear yourself sing. I feel God’s Spirit filling the church when the congregation sings, whether it is from the hymnal or gospel choruses during camp meeting and special occasions.

          We also attend Crosswalk in Redlands. It is full of thirty and forty something families – very alive, vibrant, growing, and Christ centered. It epitomizes what I believe is the only viable future of Adventism for Adventist yuppies. But the music? Spare me! Largely monotonous contemporary diddies performed by a loud, spotlighted band in a darkened auditorium where small children should wear ear protection. I see a few lips moving and a few souls toward the front center ecstatically raising their arms and swaying. But for the most part, it is not participatory worship. It is passive entertainment. The songs are performed in a key that is calls for altos and baritones to carry the melody.

          Of course this is a purely subjective judgment on my part – and is in no way a moral judgment. But I’ll take “This World is not My Home” any day over the music and lyrics of most contemporary non-poetic, non-musical praise songs, most of which are no more about community involvement than early Adventist hymns.

          • William Noel
            30 June 2016 @ 11:30 am

            Nathan,

            You illustrate a contrast that, unfortunately, causes division in many congregations and is why we need a diversity of congregations ministering to different groups. I agree with you that some contemporary music is very “Mother Goose” and presented more as entertainment than to uplift and stimulate worship. Still, there is plenty of great new music out there. Plus, the way it is presented can make a large difference in the power of the music to pull on the heartstrings of the congregants and draw them to God. I’ve seen worship bands that were primarily entertainment and those that genuinely worked to pick and present songs that drew-in the congregation and produce glorious singing that, to be honest, had a greater emotional impact on me than any combination of songs from the Hymnal ever have. But, I’m one of those who heads for the exit at the sound of a pipe organ because it reminds me too much of the powerless traditionalism that almost destroyed my faith in God years ago and the thought of ever going back there scares me.

          • Nathan Schilt
            01 July 2016 @ 7:35 am

            You’re right on just about all counts, William. Every value prioritization involves trade-offs. And even though I think some aspects of contemporary worship styles and content lack depth and richness, I am strongly supportive, because I think the traditional structures which did a better job of communicating awe, mystery and holiness are moribund.

            i understand how you feel about church pipe organ music. It’s never been one of my favorite instruments. But I have often felt Holy Spirit chills when the congregation, choir, orchestra and pipe organ join in robust praise through time tested hymns.

            Too many Christians no longer experience the creative, renewing energy of raising their voices in worship and praise. Too many contemporary worshippers look to electronically provoked emotions for a sense of God’s presence. I don’t profess to know what the implications are or where we will end up. But I praise God whenever and however I see people seeking Him. My discomfort with some aspects of contemporary worship is very much offset by the reality that it strips away the off-putting churchiness that keeps so many from seeing and seeking Christ.

          • Patricia Harvey
            03 July 2016 @ 11:56 pm

            Thank God for you, Nathan Schlit. I experienced my church singing a capella on Sabbath afternoon at the end of A.Y. service it was the grandest piece I had heard in a while without loud accompaniment. it was a thoroughly mixed congregation and we SANG; soprano, alto tenor and bass like a well-rehearsed choir. These are the ties that bind. Usually, few sing when the instruments bombard the congregation.
            I have also been at a funeral service of an SDA. In my country, most graveyards are traditionally owned by the Anglican churches who insist on conducting the service and committal of the body. But when my pastor asked us to sing at the end of the service and we began, I understood what it meant to be special. We were first admired, listened to, even by the priest, and joined by the other attendees one by one, as we surrounded the grave of our brother and poured out the gospel in song in four part harmony. I felt a thrill and the hair rise on my arms as the yard rang with Never Part Again; How Cheering is the Christian’s Hope; When We Meet to Part No More. The lesson? The world loves it when Adventists are true to their calling.

  4. William Abbott
    29 June 2016 @ 12:59 pm

    I’m shooting from the hip here, but I think Adventist hymnody was pretty diverse until the publication of FE Belden’s Christ In Song in 1908 https://archive.org/details/christins00beld

    Belden had some issues with the church over royalties and such, but he remained a faithful, if somewhat disgruntled, Adventist all his life. He was Ellen White’s nephew. If you will look through the 949 songs you’ll notice these hymns are both evangelical and ecumenically sourced.

    This isn’t to disparage the early Adventist hymns or their importance, they are there too. Just my historical intuition that there was would be little observable uniformity prior to the publication ofChrist In Song. I’ll bet the congregations sang what they knew from the music they could get a hold of – it was probably more eclectic and limited than you are imagining. A few ‘Early Adventist’ hymns learned at camp-meetings. Some of the early Adventist hymns were pretty bad. Mostly bad hymns don’t get selected often. People don’t like to sing them.

    When I joined the church forty years ago the old-timers would speak fondly of Christ In Song as the ‘old’ hymnal. It was titled so colporteurs could sell them to Christians of all denominations. I think that was also the idea behind titling the 1941 Church Hymnal <Church Hymnal.

    We forget how integral colporteurage was to the Adventist system. We published everything with the colporteurs in mind. It was both business, evangelism, pastor-training and proselytizing wrapped up into one. It was our boots on the ground.

  5. William Noel
    01 July 2016 @ 8:56 am

    Nathan,

    Who among us has found “perfect” worship anywhere in this world? So I think that our greatest challenge in worship is that we try to define standards by which to evaluate whether or not what others do in their worship activities is “proper.” So long as we’re fearful of being judged by others we are at risk of paying more attention to their criticisms than God.

    The one worship service that stands out in my memory above all others in my life was on May 1, 2011. It was four days after a mass outbreak of tornadoes swept across our area putting not less than 39 tornadoes on the ground in our county and killing 8. One family in our church were spared because they had the only basement in the neighborhood and a mother with six children and neighbors took shelter there. I helped rescue them. On that Sabbath we still had no electricity so we brought portable generators to run the video system and share pictures and celebrate how God had spared us. We sang without music and sang from the heart. Our prayers poured-out our praises to God for His great mercies to us because a number of us had been in great danger that day (I was under one tornado and close enough to several more to feel the wind). We felt the presence of God with us. It was heartfelt and moving.

  6. Ella Rydzewski
    02 July 2016 @ 11:42 am

    Thank you for this wonderful collection of songs from early Adventism. I shall treasure them. But when it comes to personal taste–I just like music of all kinds (within reason–not the stuff that sounded like a car crash or the obscene lyrics of rap).

    Church music is special and I can enjoy the beat of drums and the height of feeling contemporary religious music can bring. It’s a different kind of spirituality like that of the “charismatics” I suppose. If one can shout at a secular event, should not the spiritual move them? But that is only on occasion for me.
    There is the mellow music that is meditative–usually piano because piano reminds me of water running over rocks in the stream. Such music is gentle like the Spirit and eases the mind and makes room for prayer.
    Then there is the bombastic orchestral music of places like LLU church that tells of the majesty of God. And the moving talent of the singers both in unison or solo.
    There is the simple music of my local church with four leaders in the front leading us to sing the simple faith songs of today. Who is to say they are shallow or childish? The words of what God is like can move the heart and even bring tears. Through them the Gospel is made simple for every intellect if they will listen and digest the words.

  7. Ella Rydzewski
    02 July 2016 @ 11:45 am

    My favorite early Adventist hymn: “How Far From Home?”