The Golden Age of Hymns: Recommended Resources
Questions for Today
1. What is your favorite hymn from “The Golden Age of Hymns”? (See the Contents for some still-popular candidates.) What makes this hymn important to you?
2. In what ways is today’s outpouring of “praise music” like the proliferation of hymns 250 years ago? In what ways is it different? (For background, read “The Hymn Explosion”.)
3. Psalms and early hymns were often “lined out,” with every line said by a leader before it was sung by the congregation. (See “The Hymn Explosion” for a fuller explanation.) This often created a disjointed feeling to worship. What musical practices in today’s churches do you think detract from worship? Why?
4. What objections to contemporary Christian music have you heard? How do these reasons compare to the objections to hymns two centuries ago? (See “Irrational Music Sung by a Mob of Extremists”.)
5. Some early hymns incorporated phrases from secular poetry or were set to bar-room tunes. In what ways does music written by Christians today “borrow” from the broader culture? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?
6. Do you think today’s praise choruses will still be sung 250 years from now—in the year 2241? Why?
For readers who want to study further, here are key resources selected by Dr. Paul Westermeyer, professor of Church Music at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
• Louis F. Benson, The English Hymn: Its Development and Use in Christian Worship (Richmond: John Knox, 1962, reprinted from 1915 edition). Though a bit tedious and dated, this volume still provides valuable detail. Chapters II through VII survey the eighteenth century, from Baxter through Watts, Wesley, and the evangelicals.
• Henry Escott, ...