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:
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!