Saturday, December 22, 2007

Watching and Waiting

I have been at home painting ceilings this week. How I could do this the week before Christmas Eve services is a long story, and not very interesting.

The ceiling paint we use just begs for analogies, metaphors, and object lessons. So here’s my first crack at that … and my last crack at Advent hymns:

The paint we use for ceilings goes on pink and dries white. You open the can and it is a real deep, creamy pink. You brush and roll it on, and there is this bold, warm swath across the ceiling. And the painter – not to mention those standing below – can see where s/he missed spots. It dries white, of course, and fairly quickly. It’s slick, and I am only slightly reluctant to post here the brand name.

The Advent season, and especially the hymns of Advent, do this for a crèche-centric Christmas culture. If we cover the month with watching and waiting, and are attentive, we will be able to see what we are missing about the big event. Our nativity celebration will be covered in the richness of the Bible’s focus on the nativity of our Lord. We will truly spot – and then fix – the cultural, sentimental, emotional extras of Christmas Day. (Dr. Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College, in an Advent sermon at College Church, warned about “celebrating celebrations.”) And perhaps then, too, we will see why it takes “Twelve Days” to celebrate the astonishing Incarnation.

Well, that’s a stretch of an analogy. So let’s just look at one more Advent hymn that did not get sung at College Church this year:

Watchman, Tell Us of the Night

Watchman, tell us of the night,

What its signs of glory are.

Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height

See that glory-beaming star!

Watchman, doth its beauteous ray

Aught of joy or hope foretell?

Traveler, yes; it brings the day,

Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;

Higher yet that star ascends.

Traveler, blessedness and light,

Peace and truth, its course portends.

Watchman, will its beams alone

Gild the spot that gave them birth?

Traveler, ages are its own;

See, it bursts o’er all the earth!

Watchman, tell us of the night,

For the morning seems to dawn.

Traveler, darkness takes its flight;

Doubt and terror are withdrawn.

Watchman, let thy wandering cease;

Hide thee to thy quiet home!

Traveler, lo, the Prince of Peace,

Lo, the Son of God is come!

John Bowring (1792-1872)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rejoice, Believers!

Advent hymns.

They really only make sense if we are committed to not just Christmas Day itself (the Feast of the Nativity as our only “Christmas”) but to the short season – the 12 days of Christmas. To a season that goes until at least Epiphany Sunday, early in January. With the full calendar we can “afford” to prepare, to ramp up. But when it all comes to a crashing halt on December 26 we may look back at four Sundays and mourn the missed opportunities to sing Christmas songs, hymns and carols.

In my present context, this is where we are. As a pastoral musician I will concede my responsibility to educate, to push the rock uphill, to stand firm and chip away at a good Advent. But as long as the days after December 25 are “something other than Christmas” there will be partial – and probably hollow – victories.

Meanwhile, there are some outstanding Advent hymns to put into peoples’ hands in a College Church hymnal. And the prayer that they will not only get used (I can see to that!) but embraced by the congregation.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
and let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
and darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising
and soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray, and watch and wrestle;
at midnight comes the cry.

The watchers on the mountains
proclaim the bridegroom near;
Go forth as he approaches
with alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting;
the gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory;
the bridegroom is at hand.

The saints, who here in patience
their cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever
when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory
the Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before him
their diadems of gold.

Our hope and expectation,
O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for,
o’er this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted,
we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption
that sets your people free.

Laurentius Laurentii (1660-1722),
trans. Sarah B. Findlater (19th century), alt.
as found in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

Monday, December 3, 2007


And here we are again. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least, it is leading up to it.

But even here where I serve, where we enjoy a history of Advent services and (if I may say so) pride ourselves on being an evangelical church that really takes to Advent, there seems to actually be pretty low tolerance for the hymns of Advent. We mostly want to spend the month in Christmas, hymnically. And why won’t the choir sing more carols, anyway?

We have our favorite Advent hymns, which we dole out between the first 2 Sundays of the season. (I alternate their appearance from year to year … that’s how we keep from getting into a liturgical rut.) Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I can slip in Joy to the World because people think it is a Christmas hymn. (Ha ha!) We’ve flirted with some standard great Advent hymns – Savior of the Nations, Come; O Lord, how shall I meet you?. And if Advent 1 falls on the last Sunday of November we can even get away with Timothy Dudley-Smith’s He Comes to Us as One Unknown. (Did he intend this as an Advent hymn? It functions as such, perfectly.)

But I have learned that pastorally, at a very important level, there is an emotional need for this congregation to sing Christmas hymns, songs, and carols, through the season. Please, don’t even get me started about “educating the congregation” in this matter. I have painted the picture rather bleaker than it actually is. The reality is that we poke away at these things little by little.

But here, in this private/public space, I can revel in Advent hymns; and as I have already referenced him, let me take you to Timothy Dudley-Smith

He Comes to Us as One Unknown

He comes to us as one unknown,

A breath unseen, unheard;

As though within a heart of stone,

Or shriveled seed in darkness sown,

A pulse of being stirred.

He comes when souls in silence lie

And thoughts of day depart;

Half-seen upon the inward eye,

A falling star across the sky

Of night within the heart.

He comes to us in sound of seas,

The ocean’s fume and foam;

Yet small and still up on the breeze,

A wind that stirs the tops of trees,

A voice to call us home.

He comes in love as once he came

By flesh and blood and birth;

To bear within our mortal frame

A life , a death, asaving Name,

For ev’ry child of earth.

He comes in truth when faith is grown;

Believed, obeyed, adored;

The Christ in all the Scriptures shown,

As yet unseen but not unknown,

Our Savior and our Lord.

Timothy Dudley-Smith

© 1984 Hope Publishing Co.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving Hymns

I’m struck with how many of our familiar and loved Thanksgiving hymns come out of particular events in the life of a church or community. How hymn writers conveyed their specific thanksgiving in a way that speaks across time, culture, and experience.

Examples include “All good gifts around us” –
We plow the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand …

The hymn was written in English, extracted from a translation of a poem by Matthias Claudius (Germany) recounting a bounteous feast put on by Paul Erdmann. How’s that for a specific event turned into a classic hymn? (And how’s that, too, for the journey from a man’s dinner into English hymnody?)

Perhaps the most well-known Thanksgiving hymn, from the most amazing circumstances, is Martin Rinkart’s “Now thank we all our God.” Rinkart was a pastor in Eilenberg, Germany, in the midst of the Thirty Years War, a city under siege and decimated by the plague. At the height of the plague, he conducted up to 50 funerals per day. This hymn (especially when seen in the context of its creation) stands as a powerful example of Christian thanksgiving: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. The creation of this hymn shames my thanklessness. And I am reminded of the prayer of George Herbert:
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices;
Who, from our mother’s arms, hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven,
The one eternal God whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On making a hymnal, 2

Some more thoughts on why to create a hymnal for a local church:

Theological unity As we are not a denominational church, there is not an official hymnal with distinctly theological, liturgical, historical and practical decisions already worked out. Sure, we could buy into a denomination’s hymnal, but then we would be in the same place as we are with generic hymnals – choosing or ignoring hymns based on their theological appropriateness for our particular setting.

Open the book and sing What if we had a hymnal that you just knew any item in it was apt for this congregation’s history and theology, useful in its regular and seasonal services, and worked in our liturgical structure? Further, what if you could be confident that a person using the hymnal devotionally would not be confused or led astray theologically? Wouldn’t that be great?

A mix of old and new Respecting the old in its given form (I wrote about this previously), without the kind of changes that come from the impatience or arrogance of the present. Embracing the new, especially those hymns that speak freshly in language not likely to be quickly dated. It is amazing to me how many of the old hymn writers (from the work of Newton, Watts, and Wesley, for example) still “speak” today, because their language was fairly simple and straight-forward. Living hymn writers who do the same, and who do not spend a lot of energy bringing contemporary “issues” into their work, will likewise last. Oh, for a book that brings the generations together!

There is of course room for adjustment in regard to the older hymns:

  • Some archaisms might well be changed without harming the poetry or changing the meaning. Why lose an otherwise perfectly good hymn because one word (let’s say it is “fain”) is simply no longer in use, even among English literature scholars?
  • Some – perhaps many – of the 19th century translations into English from German, Latin, even Greek hymns, can stand to be re-done. Isn’t it time for poets and linguists to re-visit powerful non-English texts, and to rescue them for today’s English-speaking congregation.

And there is a risk worth taking on newer hymns. We simply do not know which hymns we could be disappointed with, tired of, or even embarrassed by in a decade. We can make some very well informed judgments. But we cannot know if a new hymn will stand the test of time. It is, after all, “the test of time.” But the risk is worth taking. The beauty of making a local hymnal is that it can be edited, changed, enlarged or abridged in subsequent printings.

Finally, a word about why a hymnal and not a worship book or Psalter:

  • As for a “worship book” – by which I mean a book guiding the congregation through the liturgy of the church especially as expressed musically … well, we’re just not that kind of liturgy here. The book will include Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, a couple of the documents of the church, and Doxologies.
  • In my dreams (well, now my nightmares) there will be a 2nd edition, and it will include a full Psalter. But at present this congregation does not sing the Psalms with any consistent intentionality. (As the music pastor, I acknowledge that this is a self-condemnatory statement.) Better for now to keep this more limited and direct (and get it done), to lead the congregation to become a Psalm-singing community, and to add the Psalms to our next edition.

"Our next edition." Well, let’s get this one done first …

Monday, November 5, 2007

How reading shaped my ministry

Evangelicals began writing about worship at about the time I was in graduate school. That’s a rough generalization and a reckless simplification. Of course it ignores generations of theological and practical reflection on the nature and content of public worship.

So, to re-phrase that: Around 1980 books began to appear encouraging a fresh appraisal of the evangelical indifference to matters of public worship. This was just as I had left graduate school and begun to work as assistant to my church’s music director. Very timely for me. All of a sudden – or so it seemed – evangelicals were taking Sunday morning seriously. We were directed to o the Bible itself to define worship (radical!). We had permission to dip into the history of the Church for forms, materials, and approaches to services. (Being a “free church” came to mean that we were free to pick and choose from anyone anytime anywhere.) Whether historical, creative, or alternative (there was not yet “contemporary”), our services gained from this influx of reflection on divine worship. (Most of us free church evangelicals did not know that phrase in 1980.)

I enjoyed several years of this reading, not knowing that I was being prepared for a vocation in church music. Naturally, I thought I knew what I was in for when I took my first full-time church music gig. Imagine my surprise. Reading prepared me, and then it rescued me. And still it inspires and sustains me. Here then the top of my ministry life reading list, annotated:

Getting started before I knew it:

Worship: Rediscovering the missing jewel, Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror (Multnomah, 1982). Bona fide conservative Baptists, the authors opened the window to my life. “The missing jewel” refers to my next selection. So much has been written on the subject in the past 25 years, but this book holds a special place on my shelf. And just this past week I again found myself looking up something in it – that provided clarity for an issue I was working out.

Worship: The missing jewel of the evangelical church, A. W. Tozer (Christian Publications, n.d.) Sermons preached in 1961. Tozer was a fundamentalist prophet and mystic, if such a thing is possible. He took the Bible seriously and pointed out the myriad ways conservative Christians of his generation did not. He is especially good on the glory of God and the pathetic ways entertainment-oriented “worship” is a travesty. (Yes, ours is not the first generation to suffer from that distraction.) He reads as potently in 2007 as he must have in 1955.

Whatever Happened to Christian Worship? A. W. Tozer, compiled and edited Gerald B. Smith (Christian Publications, 1985) Though I did not get this book until much later, it belongs here for obvious reasons. It needs to be read. I need to re-read it. Again.

Worship is a Verb, Robert Webber (Word, 1985) Yes, without a doubt Robert Webber must be included, in the big story of evangelicals and worship, and in my own story. Though not his first book on the subject, it is probably the first Webber widely read by my generation. This was a fireworks book for me – practical, insightful, inspiring. It began to shape my theology of public worship. I suppose there are many who have read more of Webber’s work, who have not read this. It is one of his oeuvre that I can and do go back to.

Worship: Old and New Robert Webber (Zondervan, 1982) obviously preceded Verb, but I don’t think I’m alone in having come across it much later. Worship was Webber’s primary academic, ecclesiastical, and practical life. You see all his later focus here in his first work. If you have read Webber, but neither of these books from the early 1980’s, well – you’ve read these books. Especially Old and New.

Thank you, Bruce Leafblad!

Dr. Leafblad left Bethel Seminary for Southwestern Seminary at about the time I came to Minnesota for my immersion into full-time church music. So it was a special treat to take a summer intensive with him one summer at Bethel. It is not too much to say that these two books in particular set me on a theological course that eventually brought me to College Church.

The Worship of God Ralph P. Martin (Eerdmans, 1982) The subtitle serves as my annotation: Some theological, pastoral, and practical reflections. Wow.

The Bible: A sustaining presence in worship William H. Willimon (Judson Press, 1981) The Bible is not only the source book of our worship, it is the guide and judge of our worship. I believe worship is a ministry of the Word of God from beginning to end. William Willimon taught me that.

More reading on my own:

Music & Ministry: A biblical counterpoint Calvin M. Johansson (Hendricksen, 1984) Not to mention that the first “piece” I ever had published was a review of this book, Johansson’s work here absolutely crystallized a theology of music rooted in classic biblical themes – creation, imago dei, incarnation, stewardship. I rounded a corner and never looked back. See also his Discipling music ministry (1992).

Jubilate II Donald P. Hustad (Hope, 1993) Dr. Hustad is the dean of evangelical church music. If this work is neither magisterial nor encyclopedic, it is nevertheless a work that must be read and kept close to hand if one is going to be serious about music and worship in this context. Oh, and to be fair – this may have been on Bruce Leafblad’s reading list.

The Church Musician Paul Westermeyer (Augsburg Fortress, 1997). I mentioned this book in an earlier blog. In which Westermeyer argues for the term “Cantor” and champions “the peoples’ song.” These concepts alone would rescue many a church music morass.

And what shall I say? I have hardly begun, and I haven’t mentioned work on hymns proper, or pastoral practice specifically. Oh well, these are all foundational and each has shaped one or more aspects of my music ministry. More on others as they come to mind.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

On making a hymnal

“We sing hymns.” This is probably the best short-hand description of the nature of gathered worship at College Church.

“What are your services like?” “We sing hymns.”

In our morning services we rarely sing congregational songs that do not somehow fit the description. Our evening services have a broader range, but it is a rare evening service that does not include at least one hymn –which we nearly always open the hymnal to sing. “We sing hymns.”

Even when the evening service is led by college or high school musicians, it includes hymns. Now, sometimes those hymns are the standard melodies with an eccentric accompaniment, pace, or harmonization. (“A mighty fortress” with guitar and djembe) Or they may be familiar old hymns with new melodies. (“O love that will not let me go” from the RUF hymnal) Or forgotten old hymns with new melodies that have brought them back to life. (“Before the throne of God above” from Sovereign Grace ministries) At College Church the music does not sound the same from room-to-room, but one thing unites it all: “We sing hymns.”

I have just spent a week out of my office, working on a hymnal to be printed and used at College Church. It is a project long in the making, and long overdue. Almost 4 years ago I disbanded the initial selection committee as I prepared to “complete” the work on my sabbatical. Three years ago I was on that sabbatical, the second half of which (Fall 2004) was pretty much given over to this project. The press of life and work being what it is, the project has moved along in fits and starts since then. This week it moved along significantly. Now if I can just keep it going when I’m back in the office!

Te decet hymnus exists, in part, as a vehicle for reflections on hymns, hymnists, and hymn-singing. It will also chronicle in some obscure fashion the completion of the College Church Hymnal. A few words here about that project.

College Church has used the excellent Hymns for the Living Church (HLC) since its publication in 1974. It is still quite useable, but I am convinced it cannot stay in print forever. (Sometimes I wonder if Hope Publishing Company keeps it in print just for us!) We regularly use about one-third of the selections in it; just under one-half of the selections have ever been sung in morning services. Why not buy a newer hymnal? Briefly:

Text changes – updates often change or obscure the author’s intent, the theology, or the poetry.

Archaism removal – changing Thee/Thy to You/Your often interferes with the poetry. Where a hymn’s language is simply too archaic, we are not retaining the hymn. Otherwise, we are respecting the poetry. (In the case of 19th century translations on non-English hymns, we are more free to make these changes or to find newer translations.)

Political correctness – in many instances it would not be unfair to say that when it comes to hymn-singing (as to theology generally) we do not give a fig for political correctness.

Inclusion of Praise & Worship songs – here is a category of perfectly acceptable congregational song that for the most part is too short-lived to justify putting them under hard covers. HLC may not have been the first to do this (“Pass it on” and “The New 23rd” are in it), but it is a case in point. Printed in 1974, certainly by 1980 congregations were not still singing these items.

Well, and I could say more. Come to think of it, I will say more, as time goes on. For now I will end with this caveat: Kids, don’t try this yourselves! If this project ever ends, it will be an exciting day. But that is one big IF. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Peoples’ Song

I am indebted to Paul Westermeyer for the phrase, “the peoples’ song.” I’ll have to check the source – one of his excellent books on church music. (As opposed to one of his excellent books on hymnody.) Probably The Church Musician, in which he argues for the title Cantor. And champions “the peoples’ song.”

I love to direct my church choir. I am pretty passionate about choral music to begin with. Choral music in service of the church and to the glory of God is a pretty high calling. I care so much about it that I despair of ever being a good enough conductor to do it justice. But I find that there is an even higher calling than the excellent pursuit of the choral art in Christian worship.

That higher calling, to me, is the excellent pursuit of getting the right songs into the hearts and minds and voices of God’s people. Christian worship can survive quite nicely, thank you, without a choir. Survive, yes and even thrive. As it has for centuries in western culture and does in cultures wherever the Gospel has gone. The voice of Christian liturgy is the peoples’ song – whatever form that liturgy may take, and whatever the sound of the song.

I serve a particular church in a particular culture at a particular place in time. Though seen locally as the “poster boy for traditional worship,” I am both more and less than that. Younger colleagues may confuse the articulation of the following principles and approaches with paleontology. Older parishioners may suspect the application of these principles and approaches can open Pandora’s Box. Well, whatever.

The first thing I look for in congregational song is the text. As much as possible I try to separate the text from the melody. It’s easy to rule out a song because the tune is mediocre. It is even more easy to accept a song because the tune is so appealing. I try to start with the words: do they say something worth singing, that helps us understand what the Bible says? Are they theologically sound, poetically beautiful, psychologically true? Will they bear up with repeated use?

Then I look at the melody. Does the music have a character that supports the text? This is so obviously culture-bound. To a degree it is even sub-culture bound. But I still argue for it in my setting: does this melody reinforce or detract from what the words are saying? If they are devotional words set to a march-like meter and angular melody – maybe that’s not such a good match. Do the words call us to action, but the melody comes across as a lullaby? Again, we might want to take a pass on that.

Why are these principles important? Because it is primarily through the peoples’ song that a congregation’s affections are set, their practical (lived) theology is formed, and their spirits are united to one another and with God. Or as Saint Paul wrote: Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. And Let the word of Christ dwell in you (plural) richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Long before the Internet, people relied on links for resources and encouragement in church music. We called them networks. These have sustained and instructed me in so many ways that I can hardly sort out what and where they have built into my work in the church.

The list includes one-time conferences that signaled sea-changes for me, as well as ongoing relationships with friends and mentors. Here are just a few. Some have links, in the URL sense, on this blog.

  • Ransom Fellowship, Rochester, MN – “Education and the Gift of Music.” It msut have been in 1994? Here I met John Mason Hodges, who delivered a series of lectures on musical aesthetics. It set me on a 9-month reading course that changed me forever. The Fellowship’s newsletters are also a great read. (I should, but don’t, still subscribe.)
  • Leadership Network gathering of music pastors in Colorado Springs, at Glen Eyrie (Navigators) – I attended 2 or 3 of these, which drew together music leadership from similar-sized churches. I know I met Chip Stam at one, and I think Ron Man also (but I could be wrong about when I met Ron). The gathered set their own agenda and over the course of a couple of days we learned from each other, encouragingly. (It was also great to be able to hike alone in the CO mountains above Glen Eyrie!) Chip is the heart and email behind Worship Quote of the Week. Ron is the thoughtful author/compiler of Worship Resources.
  • Kenneth Myers, author and audio journalist. I was introduced to Ken’s work through Ransom Fellowship. He is said to have the “spiritual gift of bibliography.” Mars Hill Audio presents excellent “NPR quality” interviews and commentary on culture from a Christian world view. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes is now a classic, approaching its 20th year in print and still worth re-reading. It is a small step to Myers from the massively influential Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death. (1985)
  • Don’t even get me started on books. That will have to wait for its own posting (and probably many).
  • I would be an utter ingrate not to mention the good people and pastors at Berean Baptist Church, Burnsville, MN. They welcomed me as their first full time worship pastor, encouraged and sharpened me, let me grow, and by their acceptance of my role taught me what it means to be a pastoral musician. I had never been a full-time pastor, and they had never had a full-time musician – neither of us knew what to expect, so we were well suited!
  • John Wilson, former chief editor at Hope Publishing Company, became a friend at the Village Church of Western Springs. He kindly let this upstart co-teach adult Sunday School classes on the subject of worship, and (riskily) recommended me for the job at Berean. John introduced me to the 20th century English hymn writing explosion, and without making a big deal out of it took some of the rough edges off my musical and personal approaches. I always wanted to be an intern to John. Instead, God gave us friendship.
  • The World Church Music Symposium, London 1996. The course of reading launched by John Mason Hodges’ aesthetics lectures ultimately resulted in a paper written for and presented at the Symposium. There’s so much to say about that event. But let it suffice here to say that without this Symposium I would not be at College Church. The link? George Dupere. We had not met when we arrived for the Symposium. Before we left I knew I had a friend and “iron-sharpening” colleague. I am at College Church only because George is not. (Long story.)
  • Church Music at a Crossroads was a smaller, more collegial colloquy of church musicians. The first gathering was at Covenant College. Again, while I had a chance to read a paper here, its primary value was the opportunity to meet and connect with people dealing with a careful application of biblical theology to the practice of church music.

Over time the influences of these links, and many others I’m sure, will come through in Te decet hymnus. I hope I will remember sources and give credit. If I do not, be assured I am well aware that very little of what I think, believe, and practice is original. I owe much to many.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Te decet hymnus

October 1, 2007, marked my 11th anniversary as music pastor at College Church in Wheaton (IL). This follows an 11-year tenure as music pastor at a very different church in another state. Music ministry was an unexpected vocation for me, a surprise calling just before my 30th birthday. 22 years later, I am still very much a learner.

But I do know that in the words of Psalm 65:1 – “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.” That is the common translation of the Latin phrase that I have taken for the name of this blog. A more musical translation might be “To you, O God, a hymn is fitting.”

Te decet hymnus will explore the themes of worship, church music as practiced in the local church, hymns, hymnists, and hymn-singing.
Worship services: commenting on choices, challenges, successes and failures, experiences elsewhere, models, mentors, etc.
Church music: what a world there is to explore through my own lenses, my experience and preferences, and the position I currently occupy.
Hymns, hymnists, and hymn-singing: as a hymnal project develops, devotional, liturgical, historical, theological, and musical reflections will be worked out in this space.

The words “te decet hymnus” first entered my head during my first collegiate music history course. I recklessly took as a subject for my term paper, Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem,” listening to that classic first recording. It is the stunning first entrance of the boys’ choir in the first movement (requiem aeternam) – and all these many years later, that is the beautiful, arching, aching melody I associate with the phrase. No words I will ever write will stick like that simple line. But I’ll keep writing, if only to help myself on to some clarity.