When Strivings Cease
It is with great pleasure that I announce that I must cease my striving. When this blog began almost six years ago, one of its primary objectives was to herald, champion, promote, persuade, propagandize, coerce, ramrod the burgeoning retuned hymns movement. In addition to retuning hymns myself, especially on my first (The Glad Sound ) and second (Without Our Aid ) albums with Cherry Creek Worship, I wanted to highlight all the church musicians and independent artists who were taking seriously the movement to re-gift old hymns to new believers.
Along with others, I wanted to help turn the tide of contemporary/modern worship by undertaking the massive project of backfilling its gaping holes with the songs of the past. I consulted and networked with inspirational forerunners like Indelible Grace and Red Mountain Music, and I discovered some new partners in the vision, who would over time become great friends–Cardiphonia, Sojourn, and others.
So I launched a page that would chronicle the movement by cataloguing the artists and pointing to their work. As I heard about more projects, and as they found my home base, the list increased, and I watched before my very eyes the spread of this movement to more and more places in the United States.
The Propaganda Campaign
At the same time, I began a concerted propaganda campaign to highlight these churches and artists and observe the “infiltration” of the vision in the contemporary/modern worship mainstream. The following highlights track some of that campaign throughout the years (notice I hit the gas hard in 2010-2011). Just glance through the titles to get a glimpse of what we were thinking and doing:
- Old Hymns, New Music: Not a New Thing (August 2009)
- A Review of Passion’s New Worship Album, Awakening (March 2010)
- Robbie Seay Band Dabbles in the Hymns Movement (May 2010)
- The Importance of Mentoring Next Generation of Worship Leaders (June 2010)
- Indelible Grace and the PCA (June 2010)
- “We Throw One Hymn Into the Mix Every Sunday” (June 2010)
- The Artistry of the Ancient Won Me Over…I Kept Coming Back (July 2010)
- Young Attracted to Old In Worship (August 2010)
- The Big Picture of Indelible Grace and the Ryman Hymnsing (August 2010)
- Crowder and the Hymns Movement Converge (August 2010)
- Kauflin Shares Insights on Crowder’s Church Music Conference (October 2010)
- Weightier Worship: 31 Worship Songs to Download (October 2010)
- The Hymns Movement Goes Mormon (November 2010)
- Where Has All the Singing Gone? A Bifrostian Vision (November 2010)
- Review of God Be Praised, by Gateway Worship (November 2010)
- All Things New: Red Mountain’s Last and Finest Album (December 2010)
- An Interview with Ascend the Hill on their Latest Hymns Album (December 2010)
- A Significant Achievement Bridging the Hymns Movement and Mainstream Modern Worship (March 2011)
- The Latest Developments in Thoughtful Worship (April 2011)
- Top 27 Hymns: Why Don’t Evangelicals Know Them All? (May 2011)
- The Opiate Mass: Innovations in Church Music (May 2011)
- Ten New Albums Indicative of Positive Shifts in Modern Worship (July 2011)
- Hip-Hop Hymns: Can It Be? (September 2011)
- Old Hymns to New Music…Now in Spanish (December 2011)
- Great Hymns Albums Released in the Last Few Months (December 2011)
- Worship Leader Magazine’s 20 Most Influential Worship Albums – Reflections (January 2012)
- Recent Discussions on the State of Christian Music in the West (February 2012)
- New Albums Worth Checking Out – Spring/Summer 2012 (May 2012)
- New Liturgy Site a Sign of the Times for Evangelical Worship (October 2012)
- Driving the Fear of Tradition Out of Our Evangelical Psyche (June 2013)
Somewhere along the way, as the conversation widened and the rehymning multiplied, I think we can say that this became a bona fide movement. The artists and churches became more aware of each other, and as networking possibilities increased through the saturation of Facebook and Twitter, conversations led to collaborations, and influence multiplied. With this spread came a diversification of styles, too. Retuned hymns went beyond the Southern, country, bluegrass, folk, and Americana roots of Indelible Grace and Red Mountain into the new waters of funk, blues, indie rock, pop, gospel, EDM, and experimental. In other words, the hymns began to take on more indigenous clothing as they were retuned in the accompaniment of their local contexts and influences.
Why I’m Shutting It Down, and a Vision Forward
As you can see, the retuned hymns movement is at the point where I simply can’t keep up. If it is to be chronicled and catalogued, it’s going to take efforts (and probably algorithms) that I don’t have the bandwidth to generate. Thankfully, though I can’t share much now, I know some people who are in the middle of a kind of cataloguing project and I’d ask you all to pray for its success.
I’ll no longer be updating the hymns movement page, but I will leave it there in the meantime as a kind of mile-marker and time capsule.
The retuned hymns movement was never a be all and end all. There are deficits to the church’s worship if all we do is recover a previous generation’s hymns to the exclusion of the “new song” of other generations/cultures and our own. (I point out one of those deficits in a post about traditional worship here.) I gave heavy influence early on because I felt that a thick injection of hymnody would serve as a kind of “gateway drug” to other important worship reforms and correctives: historical connectivity, theological depth, gospel-centeredness, thoughtful cultural engagement–things that this blog is deeply committed to. I still believe that this strategy is an effective one at the local level, so if you’re a worship leader whose church doesn’t sing many songs except those of the present, I’d encourage you to slowly incorporate some historic hymns (retuned or restyled to suit your context) to begin broadening the doxological appetites and sensibilities of your flock.
I’m grateful that the retuned movement is at this point, and I cheer on its continued growth. Recovery and retrieval of this sort can only be a good thing. In fact, throughout history, recovery and retrieval were at the heart of every reform-movement of God’s people, from Bible times down to the present. So, let’s keep digging up these old gems, polishing them off, and casting them in new settings and display cases for the sake of Christ and His Bride!
Thanks so much for your work and blog, Zac. I find it a great resource for worship directors. At first glance I thought you were canceling your blog all together. Almost wet myself!
What would you say are your top 10 re-tuned hymns of your six year catalog?
Ooh. Great question. I'll have to think about that!
In some senses, this post is kind of landmark. I've been with you since the beginning of this idea, thought, mission. I don't think at the time you (or I) could have articulated that the retuned hymns movement was really just a means to a greater end (deeper, connected, and gospel-centered worship). But we certainly landed on that over time. The retuned hymns movement became a means to that end for me (and for you?) with Without Our Aid. Nearly all the hymns there were heirs of the First Great Awakening, awash as it was with gospel texts. That became a drug that has fed the Coral Ridge projects, Open Our Eyes, and some pretty great liturgiology and hymn-writing. Amazing stuff. What a ride. I'm glad I've had a front row seat.
Never the curator,
Always the fan,
Haha. Love you, Dave!
Thanks for all of these hymns movement thoughts and resources over the years, Pastor Hicks. They've been extremely helpful for me as a young worship leader. I look forward to continuing reading your blog in the future!
Price St. Clair
Zac, So glad that you have new work and vision to occupy you these days. I have taken this journey with you from nearly the beginning. I was introduced to IG by my good friend and EPC pastor, Don Shipley, Jr. He was our worship leader at the time. I was immediately taken by the whole notion. I subsequently found you through your youtube tutorials of your own songs included on Glad Sound. I have appreciated you soft heart and strong mind for the things of the kingdom. You seemed to give me permission to infuse my own story into re-tuning the old texts. I found myself participating in the art itself. By God's grace I have about a dozen compositions now but only a few have made it into our sunday repertoire. I hope to record them this year just for the heck of it I guess. I want my kids to know I attempted something in this life! ha!
What I see happening now is that the act of infusing deeper texts into our cultural music has had an effect on writers. Better songs are being produced. And I've noticed a definite trend of popular worship songs flowing directly out of local church ministries. Of course, they are the churches that have learned how to leverage the influence of the new media channels.
My hope is that the movement will shift towards taking these texts into other musical cultures. So far they have been isolated to a folk/hipster style and a post-modern rock style. Both of which are very white. The movement is too vertical. It needs to widen. Your generation and younger are longing for cross-cultural worship experiences but don't realize yet that music is the key to achieving it. Every culture and subculture has its own music. One of the quickest and surest ways to show respect to a culture is to show respect to their music. Haven't you found that true with the culture of older generations?
May God continue to glorify himself as we all offer our meager gifts into His kingdom. Thanks again for your influence. Advance carefully in your Liberate journey. Most movements are birthed in godly vision and are killed with human ambition. No worries, though. We internet interlopers will keep you humble ! 🙂