Since worship resumed with live bodies in the pews at my place of worship, the hymns (and now anthems) have all been from before about 1960, with one or two rare exceptions. Things like “Old Rugged Cross,” “It is Well With my Soul,”* “Guide Me, O, Thou Great Jehovah,” ‘The Church’s One Foundation,” “Jesu, Lover of My Soul,” and so on, the hymns I grew up with and that my parents grew up with.
These are the “hymns in times of trouble,” the solid familiar texts and tunes that have stood the test of time.** The only modern things I’ve heard thus far have been “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie Sleeth, “Here I am, Lord,” and a praise chorus that the church had been using before March, and that quietly disappeared once live worship resumed. We’ve gone back to the Gloria Patri, the Apostles’ Creed, and things like that.
Right now, people want the meaty, solid hymns about life, death, trouble, and salvation. They aren’t all “comfort hymns,” warm and fuzzy and all-will-be-well-Jesus-wuvs-you songs. “Once to Every Man and Nation,” and “Standing on the Promises” are not really warm-n-fuzzy if you really look at the words. They also make you pay attention to the music, demanding the singer’s attention and focus. There’s sin, and Satan, and tribulation and sorrow, there’s pain and suffering, and a large slug of hope and endurance.
When I can look at the hymn list and know all of them by heart, all verses, every week, we have really gone back to the Old Faithfuls. These are the ones I learned from the Broadman Hymnal of the Southern Baptist Church I attended in the summers in Houston, or the Sacred Harp songbook, or the pre-1980s -“reforms” Presbyterian and Methodist hymnals.
As I’ve moaned many times, I prefer the old meaty music, the uncompromising good vs. evil and the singable melodies. Yes, I know, my “singable” is not everyone’s “singable.” Going back decades, I’ve speculated that when the fit hits the shan, people will go back to the older hymns. At least in the case of where I currently attend, that’s happened in spades.
*Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir last year has almost ruined this one, because I cannot get through it without choking up. They dramatized the story behind the hymn, and wow, it’s a heart breaker.
**A lot of Welsh tunes drifting through, too, which fits the denomination’s history.