Thursday, March 06, 2008

The History of Psalm-Singing

Duane Garner at The Avenue posted about the controversy and history surrounding the practice of psalm-singing.

We've recently joined a denomination in which psalm-singing is practiced by some churches, though not at our particular local one as far as I know. I had never even heard of psalm-singing until I was introduced to it in some Presbyterian circles a few years ago. We once participated in Psalm-singing at a theology conference, and last year we visited one local church where they used a Psalter for one hymn each week, but that is all my limited experience of this rich tradition. I found the above blog post interesting because I never knew the history behind the controversy, or that it affected the state of our music today in such a drastic manner (the absence of psalm-singing in some churches opened the door for "gospel music").

As I've learned more about the hymns, songs, and creeds used throughout the ages, I've begun to appreciate the great musical heritage of the church. I have never understood the argument (that apparently has been around for a while, according to the post) that songs or prayers that are spontaneous are somehow better than those written down or used for centuries. Or that newer songs are necessarily better than those 10, 50, 100 or 1000 years ago.

However, I also think there are some fantastic modern worship songs and hymns being written now. Though Garner may disagree, since he ends his post discussing the decline of church music, I think it is appropriate and right to celebrate with songs from various world cultures and from all time periods, as Christ is Lord of them all. Of course, there have been plenty of bad songs and hymns written throughout the years, but I think that quality texts and tunes will stand the test of time. I hope we in the church today can work to preserve the good, true and beautiful sacred music from all ages and cultures of the church, including our own.

Gaines and I already appreciate those artists who have updated old hymn texts with new, original music, and I wonder if the same couldn't be done for the Psalms? Has it been done and I just don't know about it?


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