“Edible Grace…what?” That’s the type of reaction I get when I talk to mainstream evangelical worship leaders about the hymns movement and their golden boy, Indelible Grace. IG is a move back to substantive modern worship. Their M.O. is to combine modern folk and rock instrumentation with old hymn texts. Many people misunderstand “old hymns to new music” as throwing a contemporary beat and sound on a hymn…just think of all the forced, “contemporary” versions out there of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “How Great Thou Art.” No, no. These are taking the hymns almost like pure poems and setting them to music. Hear clearly. They’re taking the WORDS of the hymns, and setting those words to new melodies and backing chord structures. These aren’t “jazzed up hymns” or “contemporized hymns” or “updated hymns” in the sense of how those phrases are most often tossed around (hear my lament about an album that falls into this category). They’re actually engaging in the historic practice of resetting old hymn texts in new musical garb.
(By the way, “indelible” should be an acceptable word to mainstream evangelicals. The fact that David Crowder has used it in “Foreverandever Etc.” is like an ex cathedra proclamation that it’s okay for modern worship…Crowder has spoken.)
In late June, Indelible Grace took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Thousands of people were there to witness what I would consider a watershed event in the life of the hymns movement in particular and modern worship at large. Most won’t pick up on its significance. The event is important because it is a symbol of the growth and stability of the movement. The vision articulated that evening, combined with how well it was received by so many different types of “church people,” put a stake in the ground–a mile-marker that shows, since IG’s birth in the early 2000s, the growth and influence of the movement alongside the maturation and individual success of many of the IG artists.
In a rare blog post (oh, for more!), Kevin Twit (IG founder) zooms out and wears his visionary heart on his sleeve. We see his passion for the Gospel, for college students knowing Jesus, and for the nation-wide (if not worldwide) reform of worship toward more substantive, thoughtful, historically-engaged, and theologically-reflective ends.
I wish I could have been at the Ryman that night, if only to cheer on Indelible Grace, Kevin, and the growth of the hymns movement. But since I wasn’t there, consider this post my raising my glass to God’s work in and through Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace.
Ironically, Crowder’s lesser loved stuff is "new hymn material"- completely new music with old texts. Though he also does a lot of jazzed up hymns (O For A Thousand, All Creatures, Come Thou Fount, etc.), his new hymns are my favorite songs of his:
Heaven Came Down off of Illuminate and Jerusalem, Our Happy Home off of A Collision. Excellent songs- great words but awesome new music. If only people knew they were actually old old hymns!!
Crowder has spoken ex cathedra on these albums; may the world heed! New hymns is the way to go!