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Entries in high street hymns (6)


New Liturgy Site a Sign of the Times for Evangelical Worship

Over the years, I've attempted to catalogue and explore the shifts that we're observing taking place in mainstream evangelical worship.  Many of these shifts, in my opinion, are in the right direction, and encouraging them has been one of the chief aims of this blog since its inception in 2009.  Those of us who have been in the contemporary worship biz for a while are probably aware of one of the leading sites to provide music and resources for worship leaders and churches,  Praisecharts, in many ways, is even more robust than CCLI in providing relatively inexpensive options for procuring chord charts, lead sheets, harmony sheets, and orchestrations of a LOT of music for worship.  

Interestingly, the makers of praisecharts began working on a site recently launched called  This is fascinating on so many levels.  I and many others, including my friends over at Liturgy Fellowship, were in preliminary conversations with the great folks at praisecharts many months ago.  They explained that they were observing a growing number of (predominantly evangelical) churches, many of whom in the contemporary camp, who were re-engaging "liturgy" but desiring resources and not knowing where to go.  

Why is there a resurgence of interest in liturgy among evangelicals?  One theory I have is that the emerging generation of worship leaders and new church leaders (folks especially in their 20s and 30s), are potentially the first to have grown up in the purely contemporary church.  Let's recall when the traditional-to-contemporary shifts took place en masse--the 80s and 90s.  Evangelicals who were kids in that time frame, who grew up in the church, were perhaps the first generation to only know contemporary/modern worship songs and the standard block-of-songs-and-a-sermon worship service structure.  Just as many of us, who have found ourselves in a rootless, fragmented, relativistic, postmodern millieu, were finding solace in old hymns (hence the rehymn movement), so we were finding our corporate faith enlivened by re-engaging the liturgy that many of our forefathers and mothers had purposefully chosen to forget.  That the makers of praisecharts, an engine which has risen to the top in service of evangelical mainstream worship, are interested in servicing the liturgical renewal among evangelicals is a huge sign of the times and one more large piece of evidence that a shift is taking place.  

The most telling thing about is that it's not attempting to only be a "traditional worship" site.  The liturgies they have put together tie in more modern-styled songs.  For instance, this Lent service has a more modern arrangement of the Kyrie by High Street Hymns.  They've also included our version of "Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending" as an option for one of their Advent services.  I'm digging it.

So, what other signs of the times have you observed about modern worship moving in a direction toward more theological depth, biblical reflection, and historical rootedness?


Great Hymns Albums Released in the Last Few Months  

I swear, I’m having to write these kinds of posts more often.  The hymns/rehymn movement continues to strengthen and expand.  Here are some great new albums that I’ve been enjoying and appreciating.

Sojourn Music, A Child is Born

Some very creative rock tunes, great guitar work, unconventional and delightful production choices.  Some traditional tunes reworked, some originals.  Sojourn is always on the upper side of the art spectrum.


High Street Hymns, On Winter’s Night

A great Advent/Christmas EP from our friends out east.  They venture into new territory here, incorporating hip-hop in tracks like “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding” and “O Come, Emmanuel.”  There’s a nice re-tuning of “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” too.


Castle Island Hymns, Christmas

A very hip indie Christmas record.  Unconventional, quirky, orchestral, and ambient, in a Radiohead-meets-Sufjan kind of way.


Cardiphonia, Songs for the Supper

Evangelicals are thirsty for this, perhaps without even knowing it.  Because I am an evangelical, I’m very aware of our impoverishment of language and expression for the Lord’s Supper.  This isn’t just an album of good Communion songs; it’s a signpost pointing to brighter pastures for evangelical Eucharistic celebration.


Chicago Metro Presbytery Music, Proclaiming the Bridegroom Near

An advent album of folk and classical orientation and instrumentation with some beautiful arrangements of traditional hymn tunes.  It’s a great example of how several churches can partner on a successful project.  Check this album out for some lesser-known hymns.


Leigh Nash, Hymns and Sacred Songs

This is a great album.  The production is superb, professional, and creative (one of Matt Redman’s producers, John Hartley).  The singing is unique, original, and stylized, and the texts can’t be beat.  There are some great hymn re-tunings that worship leaders shouldn’t overlook for congregational material.


Zac Hicks + Cherry Creek Worship, In a Byre Near Bethlehem

Of course, I had to throw in our random single.  We didn’t write this song; we just recorded it so others could hear this great text and tune.  It’s a modern Advent/Christmas hymn from the Iona Community in Scotland.  It makes the incarnation tangible.


Shai Linne, The Attributes of God

Right, right.  It’s not a hymns album.  It’s probably better.  It has more densely-packed theological muscle in each track than Charles Finney’s entire Systematic Theology (I know…not saying much…but it was a good joke)The rapping is stellar, not second-rate.  Very sophisticated, very poetic, very clever, very artistic.  And, the production is solid.  There are some very thoughtful beat- and color-choices.  This album rocks, er, raps, my face.    


Sovereign Grace, The Gathering: Live from WorshipGod11

This really isn't a hymns album, either.  But Sovereign Grace does modern worship like no one else is--Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, theology-rich...all combined with some nice, driving rock.


Hip-Hop Hymns: Can it Be?

Some have said that historic Chrisitian hymnody is largely, if not exclusively, white and Western.  Notable exceptions notwithstanding, this is probably true.  The majority of churches and entities that I am aware of which participate in the rehymn movement by and large fit that description.  However, I'm not convinced that this has to be the case.  

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Five Reasons Why Contemporary Worship Should Embrace Liturgy

Alex Mejias from High Street Hymns shares why churches characterized by contemporary worship should engage in liturgical music:

1. Liturgical music is biblical.
2. Liturgical music helps us retell the Gospel-story.
3. Liturgical music connects us to the Historic Church.
4. Liturgical music connects us to the Global Church.
5. Liturgical songs complement contemporary worship songs.

Read the whole post!  It's worth it.


Ten New Albums Indicative of Positive Shifts in Modern Worship

When I began cataloguing the growth of the hymns movement several years ago, I had no idea that its growth would be this rapid.  Even using just one metric for growth and expansion—the production of albums—the number of artists and churches setting old hymn-texts to new music is much greater than it was five years ago. 

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The Latest Developments in Thoughtful Worship

This blog is dedicated to discussions surrounding worship, church, theology, and culture.  A subtext of that agenda is to encourage Christian (and particularly evangelical) worship along its trajectory toward more thoughtfulness, biblical reflection, theological awareness, and historicity.  A sub-subtext of that subtext is to encourage this growing movement of folks dedicated to the setting of old hymns to new music.  I do this not because hymns are the be-all and end-all of the deficiencies of modern worship, but because this one practice embodies so many of the subtext's aforementioned values.  Many hymns are thoughtful.  Many hymns are soaked in scripture.  Many hymns are written from a fiery theological heart.  And all hymns except current-day ones force the Church to reckon with the fact that she is a body rooted in history--a history of God's past worth celebrating. 

So, people might get tired of me barking about this very specific thing called the "hymns movement," but they must remember that this movement is a herald of the shifts taking place with these bigger, more fundamental issues in American/Western Christian worship today.

I am therefore excited to share a brief "status update" of the movement.  More rumblings, more exposure, more buy-in.  The hymns movement continues to affect and infect the Church with greater potency and wider distribution.  Four things stand out.

Less than 48 hours ago, the 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference kicked off with none other than a hymn sing, gathering together and exposing before a new generation of eager, cross-denominational, Gospel-loving evangelicals some of the heavy-hitters in the hymns movement: Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace (Sandra McCracken, Matthew Smith); Mike Cosper and Sojourn Music.  As Cardiphonia likewise reported, Noisetrade is giving away a free sampler of these artists.  One more indicator that the next generation of pastors and church leaders care about deep, substantive worship, exemplified in hymnody.

Seven days ago, High Street Hymns released their third major hymns album, Hearts and Voices, centered on hymns for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.  It is available at a very affordable price on bandcamp.



In less than two weeks, Sojourn Music will release another album, The Water and the Blood, a second installment of an ongoing project to reshape the hymn texts of Isaac Watts for new ears.  As will be explained in my upcoming review, Sojourn continues to push out the narrow musical boundaries of contemporary/modern worship, forging ahead while reaching back hundreds of years into the vault of Christian hymnody.

In five days, an album will be released which features a bunch of well-known mainstream modern worship leaders headlining re-tuned hymn-texts of Charles Wesley.  It is called Love Divine.  I have already spoken about what a significant mile-marker this is, notwithstanding the fact that it will probably go unnoticed (though I hope not).


A little over two weeks ago, a unique conference took place in St. Louis.  Hymns movement leader Bifrost Arts hosted a gathering on "Liturgy, Music, and Space."  The average age was interestingly young, given that the topics discussed at the conference were ideas that contemporary worship used to say that only "older people" cared about: liturgy, history, aesthetics, theology, inter-generationalism, etc.

Folks, there's no organizing force behind the coincidence of these least no human one.  This can be characterized as nothing short of a movement of the Spirit through renewal of the worship of God.  All this is very significant.