What has happened to congregational singing? Rarely in our day is there a song-service of any duration. Two or, at the most, three hymns are sung, and all too often even these are abridged with, “Only the first and last stanzas, please!”

“We must not go over the hour,” is the usual rationalization. So we succumb to the shallow perspective of our hurried times. We salve our spiritual conscience and make a gesture of devotion to God by attending the evening as well as the morning service. But for one hour only! We have other plans, you know.

In a service limited to sixty minutes something, obviously, has to go. Announcements—usually extensive—help satisfy the people involved. Choirs cannot be cut short. If the minister is to have any appreciable time to expound the Word of God, little time remains for singing.

Yet historically Christianity is the “Singing Religion.” Luther’s hymns, sung not so much by choirs as by whole congregations, helped carry his message over Central Europe, and helped unloose the Reformation. In Wales the great Revival of 1904 was a singing revival, echoing throughout mining villages and green valleys. And in Scotland preachers of the last century have told of times when even before the preaching of the Word, singing brought conviction to hamlet and town and city.

The Wesleys knew the power and inspiration that came from the hymn singing of vast throngs on the English moors. And Moody and Sankey! No one questions the contribution of Ira D. Sankey’s hymns in moving two continents for God. Has there ever been a more effective, inspiring compilation of hymns than “Sankey’s 1200 Sacred Songs and Solos”?

In our own day, the Graham crusades are singing crusades. Be it in Madison Square Garden, in London, in India, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.