Praise him with fanfares on the trumpet, praise him upon lute and harp; praise him with tambourines and dancing, praise him with flute and strings; praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with truimphant cymbals; let everything that has breath the praise Lord!

—Psalms 150:3–6

(The New English Bible)

Many a Christian musician has suddenly decided to take the psalmist’s inspired imperatives very literally. Strange new sounds—most of them very loud—will emanate from sanctuaries around the world this Easter Sunday. They add up to the first significantly new movement in church music in more than a century.

Evangelical churches have taken the lead in introducing a new kind of sacred music patterned after the popular folk rock. Country or Western music is also being appropriated by evangelical churches more than ever. Theologically liberal churches have been more reticent about such musical inroads, but in those congregations that allow it, these types of music as well as straight jazz are now heard. Most common are the folk and jazz “masses.”

Interestingly, the new movement is being welcomed by many respected church musicians, even those who have until now insisted upon classical forms. Others are critical. Church-music journals have generally been sympathetic, though they are publishing hot dialogues on the pros and cons.

“The Church is groping now for a new musical language,” says Dr. Donald Hustad, professor of church music at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “At the moment we go with the latest fad.” Hustad regards the current trend as secular music’s biggest invasion of the Church since about 1850.

As might be expected, the new sounds in church music are seen as symbols of liberation and are used enthusiastically ...

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