I’ve recently been tuning in to this fantastic lecture series taught by Kevin Twit, held at by Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO.
Kevin Twit is the founder of Indelible Grace (a group that re-tune hymns; we’ve sung a few of them before in our worship services). He presents a 9 lectures covering the rich heritage of hymns and its use in Christian worship. Here’s what he covers:
- Introduction, Definitions
- Why Hymns in a Postmodern World
- Musical Style and Hymns, Early Church Hymns (Augustine, Jerome, St. Hilary of Gaul)
- German Hymns (Martin Luther)
- German Hymns continued (Martin Rinkart, Nikolaus von Zinzendorf)
- Hymns in Geneva (John Calvin), English Hymnody (Isaac Watts)
- Christian Experience in the Hymns of Anne Steele
- More of Anne Steele, Hymns in the Great Awakening and Victorian Eras (John and Charles Wesley, William Williams, Augustus Toplady, Joseph Hart, John Newton, William Cowper)
- Hymns in the 19th century onwards: Oxford Movement, Victorian Hymns, Better Music Movement, Sacred Harp, Gospel Songs, African-American Hymns, Hymns Today.
Listening to these lectures fuel in me a greater appreciation about hymns in Christian worship (elsewhere Kevin Twit calls them “theology on fire!”). I had no idea that there could be universities where you can take classes like this! I definitely don’t know anything of the sort here in New Zealand. It’s also intellectually refreshing in a different sort of way to my school and uni days, where sometimes the things we were taught in class felt more like studying music for music’s sake (e.g. avant garde trends, Schenkerian analysis).
I do wish there were study guides/handouts available, as I’m finding lots of helpful quotes and book references I’m keen to explore further.
You can listen to the first two lectures straight away, and it only takes a free sign-up to listen to the rest.
Also, some of the many interesting resources cited:
- Our Hymn Writers and Their Hymns – Faith Cook
- Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down – Marva Dawn
- Praying Twice – Brian Wren, on the nature of congregational singing. Suspect theology at times but has good thoughts on the psychological aspects of music and debates musical style
- Worship Seeking Understanding – John Witvliet
- Voicing Creation’s Praise: Toward a Theology of the Arts – Jeremy Begbie, good thoughts about musical style and the biblical warrant to say Bach is great but so is folk music
- The Psalter: Our Only Hymnal? – Iain Murray, exploring the question of exclusive psalm singing
- The English Hymn: Its Development and Use in Worship – Louis F Benson, tracing the history of every officially sanctioned hymn book by every English-speaking denomination!
- The Breach Repaired in God’s Worship – Benjamin Keach (1691) – first English guy to reintroduce hymns in worship. “Singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs proved to be a holy ordinance of Jesus Christ, with an answer to all objections.”
- Fasola.org – more info about the American tradition of Sacred Harp singing (the tune for Amazing Grace came from this movement)
- Dr Watts Singers – a uniquely African-American style of hymn singing. The hymns are sung in a slow, ornamental style, with each line being “lined out” (chanted in a quick, rhythmic manner) by one of the singers before it is sung together by the congregation.
I’d encourage you to check it out!
(HT: Matt Heerema)