This manuscript is in reference to Discussion Board Forum 3; particularly, the reading on medieval hymns in Morgan’s book and my description of how I think the message relates to our worship today. Furthermore, with the coupled use of Worship Through the Ages, my explanation of how songwriters contributed to medieval hymnody and to the wealth of Contemporary Christian singing.
Hymnody is a subject which is very important in the Christian Church of today. Many congregations within the urban community have all but dissolved the use of hymnals within their various worship services. While Towns and Whaley tells us, “God allowed hymn writers to play a major role in this awakening [The Great Awakening], Calvinists produced liturgical hymns like those of Watts, while Pietists generated evangelical hymns like those of the Wesleys. According to Eskew and McElrath, together these two types of classic hymnody reformed the Reformation.’´
Just as Germany experienced an awakening during the Herrnhutt Revival of one-hundred years, so do many urban churches need an awakening pertaining to the use of hymnals, at some point, within their worship services. However, in comparison, Morgan tells us, “Every generation of believers has written their own songs of praise….” With this thought in mind, many churches utilize songs of praise which use biblical quotes, recognizable hymn lines and musical licks; any of which will usually influence song within Contemporary Christian singing. For example, if one would consider, along the lines of influential musical licks, the Gospel song, “I Will Bless the Lord at All Times,” by Joe Pace. (http://www.pandora.com/joe-pace/mighty-long-way/i-will-bless-lord-at-all-times), he utilizes the bass lick from The Staple Singers, “I’ll Take You There.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=772YR4_rOBU). From my experiences as a minister of music within the urban Church, whenever this song is sung (Joe Pace’s arrangement), the congregation usually stands up, and really get into the words of Pace’s arrangement, while reflecting upon their prior years of partying while dancing to the Staple Singer’s song. Hmm? It is this recognizable musical cross-reference to the congregation’s years of secularism, I believe, that further codifies their conversion to Christ. In other words, because the Church recognizes that this secular song has influence and relevance to its congregation, that Christ may be observed through Joe Pace’s arrangement. Many members of the congregation reflect on how, ‘they used to…, while in the world,’ but now through Christ they are changed.
It was through the contribution, I believe, of the songwriters of the Medieval Period that Christian songwriting has its impetus and opened motivation today. For instance, John Mason Neale, the nineteenth-century translator, harbored, “…an intense dislike for Isaac Watts and the popularization of the newfangled English hymn. But that simply motivated Neale to uncover and translate the hymns of the Latin Church, which he found superior to the evolving evangelical music around him.” Just as John Mason Neale reached for Christian song from another demographic, so today do many congregations reach for Christian song by borrowing from other music styles, often times from the secular domain?
Along the lines of Greek Hymnody, one must consider Joseph the Hymnographer’s influence. He utilized, or borrowed if you will, the secular tune, “Good King Wenceslas.” “As a young man, Joseph had been captured by pirates and enslaved on the island of Crete. After his release, he traveled to Constantinople and became one of the most prolific of the Greek hymnists. …John Neale translated Joseph’s hymn honoring martyrs and set it to the same tune as his aforementioned ‘Good King Wenceslas.’”
One has to mention, in consideration of hymns of the Medieval Period, Bernard of Cluny, who wrote, On Contempt for the World,” a hymn poem with over one-thousand lines, and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who wrote, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” and “De Nomine Jesu,” (“The Name of Jesus”).
Finally, in consideration of Medieval Hymn writers, one has to mention John Neale, who wrote, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and one has to mention St. Francis of Assisi, who wrote, “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
Ultimately, I believe the purpose of Christian Song, now and throughout the ages, is to offer praise to God. I, most times, use as a reference, whether or not a particular song blesses my and/or the congregation’s soul. If this is achieved through my music ministry, I am convinced that I’m offering a slight contribution to the wealth of Contemporary Christian singing.
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