There's been a lot of talk on the interwebs about the demise of the megachurch, a longing for liturgical tradition, and the millennials leaving the church in droves. Worship music is dissected and criticized, bloggers despair over the lack of actual singing in church, and power hungry pastors are a favorite topic of the Christian online community.
Is the future of the church really that bleak?
Of course, all I know is my own experience, what I'm seeing from my small town of Joliet, IL, home of the Blues Brothers, the Statesville prison, and the first Dairy Queen. It's a small Catholic town, with close-knit, large families, and friendships which span generations. This year marks my twentieth year living here, and I'll probably be here for awhile until Caleb convinces me to move to Portland, Oregon, to live among the tattooed organic farmers.
I used to attend the same church as my hairdresser. He's decided that church isn't for him, and that he's going to pursue his connection with God on his own terms. Same with a former boyfriend of mine. They both had bad experiences with the church, and they don't want to go back.
The church can be a gossipy, troublesome group of folks. We like to fight, we hold grudges, and we love a good scandal. We air our opinions loudly: especially about Hobby Lobby, World Vision, gay marriage, and Victoria Osteen. We get into a fighting stance when musician Michael Gungor carefully explains that he doesn't believe the creation story or the flood story to be literal accounts, and shut down any opportunity for thoughtful discussion and debate.
Is it any wonder that millennials and some Gen Xers like myself, are searching for less drama? We're tired of the spectacle. We like the words justice, mercy, grace and acceptance. We want our churches to be small. . .sometimes so small that they fit into a house. We like to see ethnic and economic diversity in our gatherings, and we want to experience a variety of worship styles ranging from sedate, ancient hymns to rocking, modern choruses. We're open to the smell of incense, a sermon on an obscure book of the Bible like Malachi, and helping an impoverished neighborhood create a community garden.
I see glimpses of that even here in my small town. Before my husband and I started attending our current church, we belonged to a home church, led by a pastor and his wife who were passionate about change in our community. We had special services for local bikers, had several gay people visit who mentioned that they finally found a place where they felt loved and welcomed, pitched in to buy fruits and vegetables for families in need, and had lively discussion on topics that weren't even touched in our former church. Unfortunately, our pastor and his wife felt the need to move on, so we were left to find a new church. The one we've started attending seems to value some of the same things I'm looking for, so we're staying put for awhile.
Rather than despairing over people leaving the church, I choose to celebrate the fact that the church is redefining itself yet again, and beginning to emerge as a passionate force for change in communities. I'm thrilled that Christian bloggers are drawing attention to topics like sex trafficking and fair trade. I love that believers and non believers alike are spending more time outside the walls of the church debating and learning from one another. And I love that the idea of church is expanding to include home based groups and mid-sized congregations alike. I have no problem with saying goodbye to the megachurch.
Which brings us to the topic of hymns. Is there room for these old songs in the current canon? Do people even want to sing these anymore? In the mid 2000's, it seemed like every artist from the Christian community was putting out a hymns project. Daniel's Window seems to be a little late to the party.
There's no expiration date on ancient tunes and words that having lasting, poetic theology packed into every verse. And right now, there are a lot of people looking for the beauty and mystery of God, and they're not finding it in the church, at least in its current state.
We decided we wanted to introduce some of our favorite hymns to the next generation, the millennials and those of the new Generation Z who are not exactly sure what they want, only that they want a relationship with God.
So here goes. . .these are a few of our favorite hymns. We hope you like them as much as we do.
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