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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Songs about ...

[WARNING: the following observations concern contemporary evangelical songwriting. I cannot speak to the situation outside that context.]

There are lots of people writing songs for Christian worship, although most of the ones that are widely disseminated come from one of a small group of songwriting stables.

There are a lot of good songs being written.

But what strikes me is how generic they often seem. They are mostly songs that could be dropped into any meeting on any theme in any season of the year.

How many songs are there that focus on baptism? (I cannot think of one and yet getting baptized is something all Christians do!)

How many songs concern the bread and the wine of the Eucharist? (The Eucharist songs that I do know are mostly songs about Jesus' death, only alluding obliquely to the Eucharist.)

How many songs of lament or of repentance? (Those that there are never seem to get used.)

How many songs about mission? (There are a few more of these but still not enough.)

Why is this?

I am wondering whether it is because most songwriters want their songs to be sung and the way to maximize the chances of that is not to make them too event-specific (i.e., tied to special meetings or special themes). So the songs are written for what has become the paradigm evangelical worship gathering — a large convention at which there are no baptisms, no Eucharist, no repentance, no sorrow; just lots of happy songs. Only generic songs will work in that context and so that is what gets written.

I have nothing against the kinds of happy songs I am writing about — we need them.

However, my challenge is simply this: if contemporary Christian worship songwriters want to write songs for the church they need to have something of a mindset shift. They need to write songs for churches in local contexts living as church. They need to write songs for baptism and Eucharist and mission and Lent and lament and preaching and funerals and ... you get the picture. We need to change our mental image of the paradigm context in which songs are needed. Forget the X-Factor, Your Church Needs You!

3 comments:

andy goodliff.com said...

Amen, this is where I think Stuart Townend and Keith have been helpful in writing a group of songs on a theme ... I don't know why the likes of Matt Redman can't do the same. Since your book on the Trinity which he commended, I've found the majority of his song writing disappointing, just when I thought it might get interesting. Although see his eucharist song on We Will Not Be Shaken.

Matthew Celestis said...

Bring me my Golden Bells Hymnal, with a chapter for every ecclesial or doctrinal theme you could ever need...

Anonymous said...

If it's sngs of lament Robin I'm the man for the job hahahahaha
Andy