I confess that I am a big fan of old, traditional hymns. I grew up with them and I love them. My church sings a few of the old hymns, but mostly newer, worship music. Some of those are very good and touch my heart while some of them aren’t “my cup of tea”. I understand that younger folks don’t have a lot of patience for the old, traditional hymns and that is ok (even though a little sad). Worshipping our Lord and Saviour is the goal and most of the new church music accomplishes that.
I’ve not thought a lot one way or another about my feelings regarding the new versus old worship music until just today. I’ve been reading a book full of stories about the old hymns and how/why they were written. Today I read about a man named Isaac Watts (1674-1748) who was a prolific hymn writer. He lived in a time that just the idea of hymns was controversial and even split some churches. You see, at that time, singing Psalms was the tradition and the few people (Watts being a chief proponent) who wanted to write new worship songs were thought of as non-conformists.
Watts was a bit of a rebel even as a child. It is said that he enjoyed making poetic verses and once, he was asked why he kept his eyes open during prayers. He answered:
A little mouse for want of stairs
ran up a rope to say its prayers
I don’t know why that was his answer and apparently his dad thought it was disrespectful and applied corporal punishment. During the spanking, Isaac cried out:
O father, father, pity take
And I will no more verses make
In his adult life as a minister the controversy was very heated about hymns in church. Some churches compromised by saying that Psalms would be sung in the early part of the service and a hymn could be sung at the end so that those opposed could leave or simply refuse to sing.
Isaac Watts continued to write hymns to worship the Lord and those opposed even called his hymns “Watts Whims”. What was then is also now and there is controversy over traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs.
I believe there are many of us who love to sing the old hymns that we grew up with (many of which Isaac Watts wrote), but there is absolutely room for new songs from new writers with modern styles. I may not love them the same way I love the old hymns but as long as they worship our Lord, they are worth listening to and singing along with.
By the way, here are some of “Watts Whims” you may be familiar with:
Amazing Grace – 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (ISBN 0-8254-3425-4)