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Reform Magazine | August 19, 2017

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Sing up, sing on!

Sing up, sing on!

Hymns may be central to Christian worship, but they come with pitfalls. From finding the right
 tune to managing without an organist, John Mansfield considers the practicalities of praise

Even organists sit in the pew occasionally; the other day, there I was, and they had a new hymn. Not just new words, but a new tune as well! Why can’t they just stick with the hymns everybody knows?

The answer is, of course: It is the job of a hymn to express our thoughts in everyday language. Eternal truths are contained in the words of the Bible, and interpreted in the sermon, but we make our own response in prayer and, corporately, in hymns. New circumstances call for new hymns.

New hymns have been flowing from the pens and keyboards of hymnwriters at an increasing rate since the middle of the 20th Century. An excellent example is the late Fred Kaan, minister of Pilgrim Congregational Church, Plymouth, in the 1960s. Frequently, not finding a hymn to suit the next Sunday’s service, he wrote a new one. So his organist, Bernard Warran, had to find a tune for the new hymn. Fred was only one of a number of distinguished hymn writers belonging to the United Reformed Church, several of whom are, happily, still with us. There are others, less distinguished, whose offerings are mixed – and there is nothing wrong with that. Their hymns are temporary, and there is no reason why a hymn should not be written for a special occasion and discarded afterwards…

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This is an extract from the June 2015 edition of Reform.

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