The David Crowder Band is hosting a Church Music Conference at Baylor University in Waco, TX, September 30-October 2. This is exciting on many levels. I’m pumped to see the name of a Friday breakout workshop: “A New Old Vision for Worship – Liturgical Spirituality for Post-Modern-Semi-Reformed-Hipsters.”
Here’s what is truely exciting: more signs of the subversive growth of influence of the hymns movement are on the horizon. The David Crowder Band (for those who didn’t know) is THE name in modern worship. Of course, they’re a performance band. Of course, their most recent records really haven’t been “worship albums.” Still, Crowder emerged out of the flagship modern worship movement—Passion—and is still tethered to it. Therefore, this event with Crowder is significant. Who’s on the roster? You’d never know from the up-front promotion, but tucked in more detailed advertising, we hear of two names:
Check out their music some time. The first thing you notice is that, in the rock genre, they are the polar opposite of Crowder—under-produced, anti-digital, pitchy, lo-fi, quirky, indie, pop-orchestral…Sufjan Stephens-esque. The second thing you notice is that the text-material for their songs are either old church hymns or songs which are bathed in the thought and life of historic hymnody.
But actually…this isn’t such a far leap from Crowder. Much of Crowder’s material beyond the radio-friendly hits leans in a direction that shows that the treasure-troll-haired singer appreciates music akin to what BiFrost and the Wagon are doing.
But more is going on here than mere musical appreciation. People often think that all modern worship has sold out to novelty with no sense of connection to the historic songs of the church. It’s just not true. The Passion movement put out Hymns: Ancient and Modern, and littering all of Crowder’s material are hymns as old as the Greek “Phos Hilaron” and as new as “Heaven Came Down.” Make no mistake. Crowder loves him some hymns. And Crowder is obviously appreciating artists like BiFrost Arts and The Welcome Wagon, not only for their musical innovations, but for their textual focus.
Still, this goes even deeper. The Welcome Wagon and BiFrost Arts are not only intermingled with one another, but they are wedded with the heavy-hitters in the hymns movement—Indelible Grace. Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken’s connection and collaboration with these two groups are case in point. They’ve got denominational ties, too: Welcome Wagon’s leader is Vito Aiuto, an ordained PCA minister; Kevin Twit of Indelible Grace is ordained in that denomination, as well. Many of the artists associated with both groups are PCA die-hards.
All this to say: We have the hymns movement, perhaps for the first time, being welcomed in to a bona fide mainstream evangelical worship event. Just like Indelible Grace’s Ryman Hymnsing, this is a moment to plant a flag in the sand as a marker of the growing influence of the grass roots hymns movement. Thank God.