The above picture is from a recent Hymn Night at Northeast; a night where we cracked open hymnals, called out our favorites by number, and sang some storied songs together. It was a sweet evening of singing around the piano, eating great desserts, and bridging an unseen genre gap that can sometimes exist between generations within the church.
A caveat before I go any further: the people of my parent’s generation and older at Northeast have been nothing but gracious about the music that we play at our gatherings. They celebrate new/original music and our attempts at artistic creativity right along with the thirtysomethings, the Millenials, and the Tweens (yeah, I just wanted an excuse to use that word). I love and respect them. They are an invaluable part of our church.
I found this super old upright grand piano on Craigslist for 25 bucks a couple of years ago. A bit of internet research on the serial number and brand said it was made in New York in 1906. It weighs 4 billion pounds, it’s way too loud, and takes up an inordinate amount of space in our living room…and I totally love it.
As I sat there at this century old piano getting ready for hymn night, playing more than century old music, the melodies suddenly felt brand new and I was floored by the power of the lyrics:
“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
“Oh victory in Jesus! My Savior forever!”
“Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne.” (basically every word of all 6 verses of this song is incredible)
“In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever…”
“What He says we will do. Where he sends we will go. Never fear, only trust and obey.”
Song after song, words stacked up raining haymakers on my heart and I realized something much more convicting than I anticipated: Being a product of my generation has skewed my view of what’s “best.” I will always believe that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player that ever lived (and he is), that The Shawshank Redemption is the greatest movie ever made (and it is), and that Nintendo 64 is the best video game system of all time (tougher to defend, but I still believe it).
When this same mentality dictates what worship music I believe is “best” or “most worshipful,” I might be – no, I am – missing out on the beauty of so many songs that are outside of my default genre or generation.
I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve always attempted to not limit the songs that we sing at NE to any genre, feel, or time period, but to pick whatever songs will get us all to the feet of Jesus. But my aim is to work harder than ever to make that true, and to be inclusive of genres and time periods that fall beyond the scope of my generational filter.
So I’m trying. The other day I was practicing out of a hymnal that kept closing on me, so I grabbed the nearest, relatively heavy item I could to prop it open, my iPad. A 29-year-old worship leader propping open a hymnal with an iPad to practice some “new” material.
In the words of William Shatner playing Buck Murdock in Airplane II, “Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”