Why Are Our Camp Songs Older Than the Campers?

by Matt Bassford — Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, the Joliet church held our annual youth day. We invited young people from across Chicagoland to come to Joliet for a Saturday to participate in Bible classes intended for their age group, sing, and hang out at the homes of various members. As we typically do, Josh Collier and I divided up the songleading between us, and we solicited hymn requests from those in attendance. Here are some of the requests I remember:

· We Bow Down

· Here I Am to Worship

· As the Deer

· We Will Glorify

· You Are My All in All

· How Deep the Father’s Love

· Glorify Your Name

On a surface level, these hymn requests appear to justify a point that is often made during discussions of contemporary hymns. Even in cases where the content of a contemporary hymn is lacking, brethren often defend its use in worship because “It’s what Our Young People like to sing.” Clearly, that’s the case. All of the hymns on the list above (some good, some not-so-good) come from a contemporary/camp strain of hymnody.

However, that answer merely invites another question. If Our Young People like to sing those hymns, why do they like to sing them? It could be that this is an example of popular, contemporary Christian music forcing its way into the kingdom. You have Christian teenagers who encounter these songs online or at a friend’s house and demand that they be introduced into a camp setting.

I think there’s some value in that, provided that it isn’t carried too far (I don’t think you want the least spiritually mature members of the congregation setting the worship agenda), but it doesn’t appear to be what’s actually happening. The praise songs in question are too old.

“We Bow Down” was written in 1984. “Here I Am to Worship”, in 2000. “As the Deer”, in 1984. “We Will Glorify” has a copyright date of 1982. “You Are My All in All” was copyrighted in 1991. “How Deep the Father’s Love”, in 1995. “Glorify Your Name”, written in 1976, is older than I am.

The most recent song on that list, “Here I Am to Worship”, is 15 years old. I remember when I first started getting interested in pop music, back in 1989. A lot of the music I started exploring came from my brother, who is 13 years older than I am. Even with his help, though, the very oldest bands and albums I started listening to came from no further back than 1980, about 10 years in the past. Anything older than that, I would have identified as “oldies”, coming from a musical era different than my own.

This suggests to me that whoever is pushing the body of contemporary hymns and praise songs (and I think somebody is), it isn’t Our Young People. I think it’s their parents. A few months ago, when various Joliet kids returned from summer camp, “Sanctuary” (copyright 1982) made a couple of Sunday-morning appearances, which thankfully have not been repeated. Afterward, I overheard one of the brethren in my age cohort talking about how “Sanctuary” was to him one of those core Bible-camp experiences.

Here’s how this works. 40-year-old camp counselor is preparing an evening devotional. He thinks back to the time when he was a teenager at camp, and he remembers the praise songs he loved to sing then. He introduces them into a spiritually and emotionally charged setting. Forever after, the campers associate those praise songs with the spiritual high they felt that evening, so they ask for them to be led (or lead them) whenever the opportunity arises. Other Christians observe this pattern, conclude that Our Young People really like contemporary hymns, and push for their inclusion everywhere.

In reality, the driving force here is not progress, but nostalgia. Contemporary praise songs are benefiting not from their innate appeal to Our Young People, but from the camp devotional experience. I suspect that any hymn introduced into such a setting will quickly become a camper favorite, even if it’s 300 years old.

Counselors, then, have a golden opportunity to spiritually shape their young charges. There are good, emotionally powerful hymns from every era of English hymnody. Introduce those. Don’t lean on the mixed body of contemporary hymns, just because they’re contemporary. Singing a spiritually pointless praise song from the early ‘80s is a waste. Admittedly, it does reflect a certain set of preferences, but those preferences don’t belong to the campers. They belong to those who are supposed to be instructing them.

http://hisexcellentword.blogspot.com/2015/10/why-are-our-camp-songs-older-than.html

A Hymn For Today – Forever With the Lord

FOREVER WITH THE LORD

“Forever with the Lord!”
Amen, so let it be!
Life from His death is in that word –
‘Tis immortality.
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day’s march nearer home

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul, how near
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Your golden gates appear!
Ah! then my spirit faints
To reach the land I love,
The bright inheritance of saints,
Jerusalem above.

“Forever with the Lord!”
Forever in His will,
The promise of that faithful word,
Lord, here in me fulfill.
With You at my right hand,
Then I shall never fail.
Uphold me, Lord, and I shall stand;
Through grace I will prevail.

So when my latest breath
Breaks through the veil of pain,
By death I shall escape from death,
And life eternal gain.
That resurrection word,
That shout of victory:
Once more, “Forever with the Lord!”
Amen, so let it be!

SMD (6.6.8.6.D) – James Montgomery, 1835                                                                                                                    Tune: TERRA BEATA – Franklin L. Sheppard, 1915                                                                                                                # 695 in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, 2012

A HYMN FOR TODAY – God of the Living, In Whose Eyes

I posted this on March 27, 2013 — almost 2 years ago — and it seems appropriate to reblog it now.

ἐκλεκτικός

A HYMN FOR TODAY

God of the living, in whose eyes

Unveiled, Thy whole creation lies;

All souls are Thine; we must not say

That those are dead who pass away.

From this our world of flesh set free,

We know them living unto Thee.

Released from earthly toil and strife,

With Thee is hidden still their life;

Thine are their tho’ts, their works, their pow’rs,

All Thine, and yet most truly ours;

For well we know, where’er they be,

Our dead are living unto Thee.

Not spilled like water on the ground,

Not wrapped in dreamless sleep profound,

Not wandering in unknown despair,

Beyond Thy voice, Thine arm, Thy care;

Not left to lie like fallen tree –

Not dead, but living, unto Thee.

Thy Word is true, Thy will is just;

To Thee we leave them, Lord, in trust;

And bless Thee for the love which gave

Thy…

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Must Hymns Be Scriptural?

Carl Peterson kicks off a series about questions we should be asking and contemplating regarding our worship to God in song.

Strains Divine

I sometimes wonder if song/worship leaders should be giving the same disclaimer as preachers: “Compare the songs we sing to the Scriptures. You’d be my friend if you let me know if anything we’ve sung is out of harmony with the word of God.” 

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God of the Living, in Whose Eyes

God of the Living, in Whose Eyes

Carl Peterson on John Ellerton – worth reading!

Strains Divine

When the hymnal Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (PHASS) was published in 2012 by Sumphonia Productions, it introduced to its users a number of texts which had not been available previously in hymnals commonly in circulation among its primary audience. Some of these were more recent texts that had not yet had opportunity to do so (or had not been sought out until this publication); others were much older, going back 100 years or more, that for various reasons had never penetrated “the brotherhood.”

One such hymn (to my knowledge and ability to research) is “God of the Living, in Whose Eyes.” The text was written by John Ellerton, whose hymn, “The Day Thou Gavest,” is well regarded in some quarters and has appeared in brotherhood hymnals since at least Jorgensen’s Great Songs of the Church (both editions). The tune used in PHASS was composed by C. E. Couchman in 2011, presumably…

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Mind Your Music – by Doy Moyer

Mind Your Music – by Doy Moyer

Worth reading at

http://www.mindyourfaith.com/mind-your-music.html

 

Outline:

I. A Case for Mindful Singing
A. The Message of our Music
B. Music as a Communication Tool
II. A Brief Religious Musical History
A. What about Instruments?
B. What about women?
III. Fundamentals of Music
A. Role of the Song Leader vs the Role of the Congregation
B. Pitch
C. Rhythm
D. Expression
IV. Final Thoughts

Passages for reference:

Ecclesiastes 5:2-7
Romans 15:1-11
1 Corinthians 14
Ephesians 5:15-21
Colossians 3:12-17; 4:2-6
James 5:13

 

 

Please Don’t Steal Hymns!

From Matt Bassford’s excellent blog, His Excellent Word

Please Don’t Steal Hymns!

Monday, September 1, 2014

If you copy or distribute a copyrighted hymn without the copyright holder’s permission, you are breaking the law.  ALWAYS ask permission before copying or distributing!

New hymns and praise songs are exciting.  Nearly all of us who love the worship of God love the opportunity to “sing a new song”, and we are eager to introduce these new songs in our own assemblies and other devotional settings.  This eagerness is commendable.  However, we must make sure that our eagerness does not lead us to violate the law.

At the bottom of most modern hymns, there appears a notice that looks something like the following:

© Copyright 2014 by John Smith, Owner.  All Rights Reserved.

It indicates that the author has chosen to copyright the hymn.  Legally speaking, such a copyright notice is unnecessary.  Since 1989, United States law has provided that any creative work is automatically copyrighted, whether the creator includes a notice or not.  However, most hymnists include the notice anyway, to preclude the possibility of someone unintentionally infringing their copyrights.  As a practical matter, it is safe to assume that any work copyrighted 1923 or later is still under copyright.

Under Sec. 106 of Title 17 of the United States Code, the copyright owner has the exclusive rights to do the following:

  1. “Reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords.”  In other words, if you make a copy of a copyrighted hymn without the owner’s permission (whether by transcription or scanning, photocopying, etc.), you are breaking the law.  If you make a recording of a copyrighted hymn without the owner’s permission, you are breaking the law.
  2. “Prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.”  In other words, if you change the words of a copyrighted hymn without the owner’s permission, you are breaking the law.  If you rearrange the harmony of a copyrighted hymn without the owner’s permission, you are breaking the law.
  3. “Distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership.”  In other words, if you photocopy a copyrighted hymn and pass it out at a singing without the owner’s permission, you are breaking the law.   If you e-mail a PowerPoint or PDF of a copyrighted hymn to a friend without the owner’s permission, you are breaking the law.
  4. “Perform the copyrighted work publicly.”  In other words, if you sing a copyrighted hymn in an assembly without the owner’s permission (which is presumed to be granted when the owner grants permission to copy), you are breaking the law.
  5. “Display the copyrighted work publicly.”  In other words, if you make a PowerPoint of a copyrighted hymn without the author’s permission, you are breaking the law.

Copyright law is civil rather than criminal, so there is no prison time attached to any of these offenses.  However, any of these actions gives the copyright owner grounds for a lawsuit.  According to 17 U.S.C. §§ 504-505, statutory damages may be as high as $150,000, in addition to court costs and attorney’s fees.

Now, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, neither I nor any other hymnist I know would sue a brother in Christ for copyright infringement, but it is certainly ungodly to treat our forbearance as license to violate the law!  According to Romans 13:1, God commands Christians to obey the law.  Copyright violators, then, engage in activity that is not merely illegal but also sinful.

The cure for the disease is simple.  Before copying or distributing a copyrighted hymn, always ask the owner’s permission!  In our digitally connected age, this is much less onerous than it has ever been before.  All the hymnists I know have e-mail addresses or Facebook accounts.

I have never yet refused permission to someone who wanted to copy or even to record one of my hymns, and (even though hymnists do have the Scriptural right to ask compensation), I have never asked a penny in return.   I also make the effort to reply to permission requests in as timely a fashion as possible.  Once again, this is generally true of the writers with whom I am familiar.  Alternatively, websites such as songsofthechurch.org have secured the relevant permissions from copyright owners and offer the opportunity to download clean copies for a nominal fee.

All hymnists write because we want our hymns to be sung.  However, we also want our work protected, from everything from innocent transcription errors to would-be editors who think they can improve our hymns by rewriting them.  Copyright is the legal means we have to make sure that the integrity of our work is preserved.  It is ethical, legal, and godly for all who want to use our hymns to honor those copyrights, and ignorance of the law is no excuse.  All of us should want to glorify God with new hymns, but we must make sure that we glorify Him with our actions too, by obeying the law of the land.