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John Bell – an interview with the popular hymn writer and theologian
After Charles Wesley, John Bell is the most represented author in Singng the Faith, with 43 entries – often written in partnership with Graham Maule. This archived article from the March 1993 issue of Reformed Worship reveals a good deal about what drew John to writing hymns and what his priorities are. And we like the punning title, don’t we? For Whom the Bell Toils.
Wedding hymns – where to start?
Gordon Giles gives a starter for ten for those trying to choose hymns for wedding. In his Short guide: Wedding hymns (one of a series produced by the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland), he observes that “when choosing hymns for the unchurched, the tune drives the words, and so picking the right tune is crucial, and finding words that fit is the task through which the Christian teaching and gospel truth may be transmitted. In no other realm is this truer than with weddings.” See, for example, Jill Jenkins’s We pledge to one another (StF 606), set to the same tune as “I vow to thee my country”, and This is the long awaited day – a wedding hymn by Keith Albans only on StF+.
Problem lines in problem hymns
From Premier.Christianity this amusing-but-serious look at the words we sing (but perhaps shouldn’t) in worship. Mark Saunders tackles the issue of what our hymns sound like to those with no knowledge of our faith and traditions, and identifies five problem areas (including hymns that are theologically divisive and what he calls “Me, me, me songs”).
Perhaps surprisingly, Mark focuses almost solely on “worship songs” (by Keith Getty, Stuart Townend, Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman et al). Surely, the issues he highlights apply to all traditions of our hymnody. Nevertheless, his thoughts have whipped up quite a discussion, as the comments below his article demonstrate. And certainly he offers food for thought with such comments as: “Sadly for the egos of most preachers, the average Chris Tomlin chorus is a lot more memorable than the average sermon.” He concludes: “If worship is an act of total devotion, then it demands our minds as well as our hearts.” Go to Theology test your worship songs.
Keith Getty on writing hymns
On The Gospel Coalition website, popular hymn writer Keith Getty reveals an unexpected personal hero – the German reformer Martin Luther (“Martin Luther is one of ten people from history I would want to have coffee with”). Ten thoughts and ideas on writing contemporary hymns from an expert. Go to Keith Getty on writing hymns. (Did you know, there’s a Keith Getty Fan Club page on Facebook?)
John Newton on writing hymns
Some interesting blog entries at Reformed Praise. The site was established in 1999 (which makes it OLD!) by David Ward – who’d been inspired by the hymns of C.H. Spurgeon. So – strongly evangelical, strongly biblical and strongly male (the contributors). Will irritate some and be music to the ears of others. Try this little piece on John Newton and William Cowper for starters.