In planning worship that should appeal to the youth, does it mean more contemporary songs should be included? When we sing hymns, are we excluding the youth?
Hymns are a staple in the Methodist tradition. The 6,500 hymns of Charles Wesley and the hymn translations of John Wesley contain the substance of Methodist theology. These hymns are used for instruction, devotion and worship. The process of singing and imbibing these hymns will shape one’s Methodist identity to a large extent.
If these hymns are not learned by the younger generation, will the Methodist theology and identity change? How can we introduce hymns to the youth?
A fresh way to sing hymns might be brought about by studying the hymns through the lens of performance practice, i.e. looking at the era during which the hymn was written and understanding how music was sung during that time. By understanding the style, we may be able to vary our hymn singing and thus make it more “alive”.
Another way is to contemporise the hymn. The worship team may explore the chords and experiment what works. Improvisation around the melody employing exciting chord progressions appropriate to message may enliven the hymn.
To go a step further, you can re-tune the hymn. For example, “All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord” was set to a new tune by Joshua and Amelia Loke. Here’s their thought:
“New music, when set to old lyrics, has the potential to uncover the treasures of the past for the edification of today’s congregation. When we were given the task to re-tune this Wesleyan hymn, we thought carefully about how the new tune should sound. As the lyrics spoke about unity in the body of Christ, we concluded that the new tune had to be accessible to both young and old, and had to have musical elements from the past and present. The melody also had to ‘match’ and bring out the meaning of the words, especially Wesley’s description of our glorious hope, perfect harmony in Jesus, and the heights of rapture that await us at the end of days. In light of this, we have come up with a rather stately, hymn-like tune that has some contemporary elements. We pray that the new music will refresh this old hymn, and spur both the young and old in the Methodist Church to strive for godly unity. ‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’ (Ps 133:1)”
All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord
All praise to our redeeming Lord,
who joins us by his grace,
and bids us, each to each restored,
together seek his face.
He bids us build each other up;
and, gathered into one,
to our high calling’s glorious hope
we hand in hand go on.
The gift which he on one bestows,
we all delight to prove,
the grace through every vessel flows
in purest streams of love.
E’en now we think and speak the same,
and cordially agree,
concentered all, through Jesus’ name,
in perfect harmony.
We all partake the joy of one;
the common peace we feel,
a peace to sensual minds unknown,
a joy unspeakable.
And if our fellowship below
in Jesus be so sweet,
what height of rapture shall we know
when round his throne we meet!
Words: Charles Wesley (1707–88)
Music: ARMENIA, Sylvanus B. Pond, 1836; harm. by Austin C. Lovelace, 1963
Judith Laoyan-Mosomos is the Director for Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.