I recently gave some hints about how we can be more aesthetically engaged, so let’s pick up on that note once more.
For decades now, a certain sort of music has been popularised for Western Protestant Christians: worship music or contemporary Christian music. But in the early 2000s, something else started brewing.
The new hymns movement is something I’ve begun exploring only recently. These artists draw direct inspiration from traditions that have been obscured to us, and they take what I consider a more community-minded approach to music-making, a more folk/roots sensibility. Probably because of this influence, it has become popular to rework hymns — the famous ones, that is — but there’s even more exciting stuff around. One group that helped pave the way (and grew from a university ministry!) is Indelible Grace:
Our hope is to be a voice calling our generation back to something rich and solid and beyond the fluff and the trendy. We want to remind God’s people that thinking and worship are not mutually exclusive, and we want to invite the Church to appreciate her heritage without idolizing it. We want to open up a world of passion and truth and make it more that just an archaic curiosity for the religiously sentimental. We believe worship is formative, and that it does matter what we sing.
In this post, let me introduce you to Cardiphonia as an avenue into the new hymns movement. Cardiphonia is curated by Bruce Benedict, who gathers all sorts of musicians to create themed compilation albums. Most Cardiphonia releases are free to download and each comes with a songbook. Let’s take a quick tour through some of their releases. They’ve amassed a big collection now, so I’ve picked out just a few highlights for you to explore.
We evangelicals have begun to realise that there’s more to faith than the cross, and perhaps we’ve started to recover the resurrection, but we’re yet to fully embrace the ascension — so it’s a good thing Cardiphonia has been exploring neglected themes! First up, check out Hymns for the Ascension:
Next is Hymns of Faith, a recasting of an 1866 songbook by Samuel Stone, who wrote a song for each article of the Apostles Creed:
Then there’s Pentecost Songs, with the backing of more than 1000 years of artistic reflection on the work of the Spirit. ‘This is an insanely fruitful toast to the Spirit singing in our midst.’
Finally, Songs for Liturgy is a tremendous celebration of church history and life-giving community inspired by the ancient mass:
Here’s a brilliant quote from the Songs for Liturgy songbook’s accompanying essay:
This is sung theology at its best, rooted in revelation, and tried in the trenches of the church’s worship across the ages. In this sense, these tunes are perhaps even more tied to scripture than hymn traditions stemming from the 18th-19th century. These texts are big enough to hold all the conflicted lives and souls of those who come to worship every week. They remind us that we do not commune with a God who has been thought up, but with a life that is greater than anything that we can think up for ourselves.
I haven’t even begun to digest their new album, Hallel Psalms.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.