When I got to be a certain age, my relationship to worship music changed. Up to a certain point I enjoyed things that had a good melody and were fun to sing, that my kids enjoyed — and if I related to the lyrics in some way, so much the better. Then I passed some age and life experience milestones — a chronic illness, the illness and death of my father, the growing up of my children, perhaps — and I began to think about worship music for the sad and trying times in life.
Someone described to me a deathbed vigil where family members had sung the dying family member’s favorite hymns. It had brought great comfort to all involved, she said. It’s easy to imagine how familiar hymns would have power to comfort and help when there is not much left to say.
It troubled me then that I knew the lyrics of so few hymns. I didn’t even have any favorite hymns, none that had built up familiar and comforting associations for me. Yet the upbeat pop songs we sang in church wouldn’t transfer well to deathbed conditions. (Maybe I lack imagination. Maybe they will serve just fine in that capacity to the generation that grew up with them and loves them.)
So I began to think about the value of cultivating familiarity with a body of worship music that had power to comfort and proven durability, and this is a goal of mine for the next season of my life.
Today I came across a short article offering thoughts on what makes a good hymn last. The Richness of Our Faith, A Conversation with David Neff
Hat tip: Ancient Evangelical Future