Last Friday night, I graduated from Seminary. Our ceremony was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Orlando. It was a wonderful evening with an inspiring message from Sandy Wilson from Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, on the biblical imperative to love the poor. We also heard from the Rt. Rev. Jackson Matovu, the Bishop of Central Buganda in the Anglican Church. Central Buganda is located in Uganda along the shores of Lake Victoria. One of the Bishop’s priests has been a classmate of mine while I’ve been in seminary and he came in, along with his family, to celebrate with us.

Like I said, the ceremony was wonderful – except the music. And the music was good – except for one hymn.

Blow ye the trumpet, blow!
The gladly solemn sound
let all the nations know,
to earth’s remotest bound:
Refrain:
The year of jubilee is come!
The year of jubilee is come!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

It wasn’t that the hymn was bad. The organ was in tune, the trumpets played their parts correctly, the singer sang the right notes. Well, scratch that. I think the singer sang the right notes. The problem was, nobody knew what the right notes were because no one had heard the hymn before. It wasn’t that the crowd didn’t sing, they sang with gusto on “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, it was that they didn’t know what to sing. I am not exaggerating when I guess that less than 15 people in the entire building had heard the song before it was played at graduation.

This is not a diatribe against new music, a manifesto that we stick to what is familiar. It is, however, a comment on how we use new music. A seminary graduation is not the place for an unfamiliar hymn. At the very least, the music should have been printed in the program or a hymn from the hymnal should have been chosen. There are certain occasions when it’s best to stick with what people know. Weddings, funerals, graduations, etc., these are events where teaching new songs might not be the best course of action.

I am all for new music; I write new music. However, I am concerned with how we teach new music. This isn’t a complaint post about my seminary graduation. Rather, it was an event that got me thinking about how we use new music in the church and how we teach new music in the church. Look for more developed thoughts to come.

Sing to the Lord a new song! (Only, do it at the right time.)

Post filed under General Christian Worship, Hymns.