A 2015 survey conducted by Duke University polled four thousand congregations across various Christian denominations about types and styles of worship. The result was that traditional worship is in decline. Organs and choirs are used less and drums are used more. Informal praise and worship with a contemporary Christian music flair is much more prevalent. Can hymnal music still carve out a place in contemporary congregations? We think it can and here is why:
1. Hymnal Music is a Christian Treasure
A part of Western Christianity since the 1830s, hymnal music has been a revered part of worship, both in the church and at home. These treasured books are still found in pew racks across the United States and are much more intimate and comforting that the large screens that seem to dominate contemporary churches. Hymns are known to invoke the spirit of God and create a sense of reverence. They may not be as trendy as contemporary Christian music, but they are the very roots of Western Christian music.
2. Hymnal Music is Time Honored
When we think of a worship space, we likely think of subdued lighting, mesmerizing organs, traditional incense, pews, an alter, a lectern, and other traditional symbols of faith. We don't typically think of loud drum sets, large white screens, fog machines, and stage lighting. We have enough screen time and flashiness in this high tech world in which we live. Worshipping according to time honored traditions is a good respite from our busy lives and hymnal music is at the center of traditional worship. Hymnal music is a rich trove of theological teaching that isn't found in modern praise and worship music.
3. Hymnal Music Promotes Note Reading
The lyrics presented on big, white screens during contemporary praise and worship do not include music notes. The congregation lacks guidance as to how to sing each song. They only have the lyrics to use, not the actual music. As a result, most contemporary praise and worship is limited to the most popular songs that people already know so that they can sing along. So many hymnal stories and so much theological context is lacking from the modern songs, which are more like rhythmic trance songs. Hymnals allow worshippers to remain focused and concentrate on the beautifully composed music and enriching lyrics. Church goers learn to read music notes when hymn music is part of the service.
Although church communities are experiencing a decline in the use of traditional hymnals, those committed to composing and performing hymnals are unwavering because of the tremendous spiritual value of hymnal music.