At a church where I served a long time ago in a town far, far away, we were limited to worship music written by folks a long time ago, in towns far, far away.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and actually quite a lot right about that. Honestly. I do believe singing an old song, reciting a catechism question and answer, rephrasing a statement of faith written in another language, increases our solidarity with Christians from all over and develops a far more robust faith.
Many hymn writers have already walked a mile in our own shoes, before we’ve even taken our first steps. Timeless truths have reframed their own experiences such as family loss and depression, and they in a real sense, urge us from heaven to press on toward our prize.
Yet I also find great value in singing songs with melodies and music written more recently. For a while, we could only choose between one or the other. U2’s front man and lead singer Bono lamented this unhappy marriage of good lyrics with outdated tunes in his discussion on the Psalms with pastor Eugene Peterson. His words summed up my experience exactly: “Good words, but I hated the tunes.”
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Of course, goodness or beauty lies in the eyes or the ears of the beholder, but a quick perusal of a hymnbook will reveal that few hymn texts have actually remained married to their original tune. Most melodies have a shelf life and such lyrics benefit from contextual retuning.
We now have the opportunity to sing words written a long time ago in a town far, far away, with music that isn’t. Instead there does exist music written and performed in an expression much more down to earth, identifiable and enjoyable.
In the past 20 years or so, multiple artists have begun rearranging tunes to popular hymns but I’d like to highlight one such artist collective called Indelible Grace. While indelible is not a word we use too often (at least I don’t, and I love vocabulary words!), but according to Webster it refers to that which “cannot be removed, washed away.”
Combined with “grace,” you have music intending to communicate the grace in Christ that leaves an irremovable mark on us.
Matthew Smith is one of the founding members of this hymn project and aims to write “new melodies to centuries old hymn texts, helping guide people to emotionally honest worship.”
What started as college ministry has begun to unite a variety of ages who choose to honor tradition with a more modern musical approach. Like Bono, myself and many others.
So instead of an organ led choir, Smith’s retuned hymns have a folk-rock sound to them, led by guitar, bass, and drums. He has contributed many retuned hymns to the Indelible Grace albums, but has recorded a number of solo albums.
Smith’s latest album “QuietHymns” debuted on the Billboard Christian albums chart. You can listen to his music and find more info on Matthew Smith at his website matthewsmith.us
Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will continue their Southeastern tour next week by playing at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at Harbor Community Church, 2300 43rd St. W., Bradenton.
Such concerts have a special worship feel, as lyrics on the screen invite audience participation. Smith also promotes child sponsorship through Compassion International, a worldwide childhood development ministry.
Because these hymns are for the church, he will also be offering a free worship seminar before the concert at 5 p.m. It will comprise an informal time of Q and A for pastors, worship leaders, where hymnody as well as other topics of interest can be discussed.
If interested in the free seminar, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org Tickets for the concert are $10 -- there is a $30 dollar family ticket -- and can be purchased at http://harborcommunitychurch.org. Tickets at the door are $12.
Contact Pastor Geoff Henderson at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.