Resurrection & the worship song

A few weeks ago, while chronicling my Greenbelt experiences, I mentioned a rather retro moment during the Rend Collective Experiment’s fabulous Big Top session. Towards the end of the set, the group began to play a tune that was instantly familiar, yet one that I’d not heard or sung in nearly two decades. I turned around and caught my sister’s expression – she was astounded and seemed to be looking around for someone to laugh with. Only no one was laughing…

The song in question was a Graham Kendrick classic from the 1980’s. One that had been sung over and over again. One that middle-aged flautists had played with glee, and that teenage girls liturgically danced to in an alternative worship services across the country in the early 1990’s. The song? The Servant King.
[Wondering about that liturgical dance? Think about the line: “hands that flung stars into space” and I’m sure you can begin to imagine it.] 
It may not be up there with Shine Jesus Shine, but it’s most definitely of its age. However, in that tent, on a hazy August morning, several thousand people sang it with enthusiasm, passion and real meaning. It seems that a song, relegated to 1980’s naffness, can make a comeback – and perhaps we should be a lot less cynical about the songs of yester-year…
Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the fact that many of today’s worship song writers are returning to old hymns, either in terms of song-structure (more verses with theological content, less repetitive choruses/bridges), or writing new tunes to old words. A current favourite example of this would be Hillsong’s Cornerstone. Last year, our worship leader introduced a new song with the words: “this uses familiar words, but a new tune – prepare to have your minds blown”. The song in question – a reworking of Be Thou My Vision – may not have actually blown my mind, but it has apparently become my mind’s go-to song in moments of quietness. In fact, it was written for an album (currently in production) entirely consisting of new interpretations of old hymns. 
The irony is that while certain songs and hymns of a bygone age are coming back into fashion, others of the more recent past are fading into naffness. Take Here I Am to Worship – a song that’s in the top 25 of CCLI songs, i.e. the Christian songs that have been most played in churches. Once upon a time it was the epitome of contemporary Christian music and it’s certainly one that’s meant a lot to me over the years. [The song’s author is in the year above me at Vicar School and as many of you know, is still producing high quality stuff, so I’m really not trying to do him a disservice.] However, when it was played at church last week, I was overcome…
…no, not with the power of the Spirit, but with the giggles. The problem was that it brought back a very vivid memory of a night in France, with a guitar and a lapsed charismatic Christian who could only remember the chords of one song – the aforementioned worship hit. It proceeded to be played on an out of tune guitar, in a darkened room of a chilly gite, with random people joining in in a semi-ironic fashion. Obviously, I struggled not to join in, particularly struggling with the fact that I wasn’t sure I could sing it in a semi-ironic fashion given that my natural instinct was to join in with the harmonies. But the whole scene amused me greatly and it’s clearly stuck in my mind. 

Hopefully it won’t be there forever as otherwise I’ll get the giggles at even more inappropriate moments than I do already.

Comments

  1. I always thought Here Am I to Worship sounded best sung in a Brummie accent…

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