Last Sunday during the worship service I had a thought while singing. The congregational song was actually two songs merged together. It started with a new song, Gracefully Broken, and then flowed into the classic hymn I Surrender All. Having grown up in a church that sang old hymns, partly because the new “worship songs” were not in vogue yet but mostly because of tradition, I was able to sing along without hesitation when we transitioned.
The thought I had was “will my children know this song, or any of the classics?” The church we attend doesn’t sing a lot of the old hymns. I don’t miss them so much as wonder if my children will even know they exist and if the classics will be lost to time.
There has been debate over the proper music for a church service. Some believed that only the traditional hymns should be used; if it isn’t in the trusted hymnal sitting in the back of the pew then it shouldn’t be sung in church. Others embraced worship songs with their modern melodies. I am not sure if this debate is still ongoing, but the fact that it ever did seems silly to me.
I have been exposed to many forms of music, but not all of them. I, like most, tend to like the music I grew up with and hear most often. But I realize that there is not one way to worship God through music.
Growing up attending The Salvation Army, I learned a lot of hymns while the congregation sang along to a brass band accompaniment. My idea of music in church centred around the band. I still enjoy listening to brass bands, at least in small doses.
Currently about the only time I hear brass bands is during Woodstock’s Victoria Day parade. It is a family tradition to travel 45 minutes west to where my grandfather is still bandmaster. Every year we go and see him ride by on the float and wave as the band passes by playing familiar tunes. They are just one of many bands in the parade and maybe the smallest of the brass bands I hear that day.
Of all the bands in that parade, the one I look forward to hearing most, outside of grandpa’s of course, is the steel drum band and its Caribbean beat. I have no idea if any of the songs they play have words, but I love the joyful music they produce and can’t help but jam along to it.
When it comes to music, I guess beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Whatever style you prefer is perfectly acceptable. While some people will express their disdain of certain types, others fully enjoy them and find them their prefered genre for worship.
So what is music going to sound like in Heaven? Hymns or worship songs? Rock and Roll, country or rap? Brass bands, Steel drums or pipe organs? Not to mention the myriad of different styles and sounds from around the world and throughout history that have been lifted to God for millennia or new ones that have never been heard before. I don’t know the answer, but my guess – all of the above.
Just like the music we lift up to God in praise now, I believe that we will worship God and bring praise to him in ways that are both jubilant and diverse. Our creative side, the basic DNA of our ability to compose, is a direct reflection of our Creator. Just as each of us has our own tastes and preferences now, I believe that God enjoys every note that is lifted to glorify Him.
So, whether my kids ever learn the words to How Great Thou Art or And can it Be doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they learn to lift up praise to God and bring a joyful sound that is pleasing to His ear.