“When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried:
-Fred Pratt Green
Since the current iteration of Liturgy began in 1980, the landscape of church music has continued its rapid evolution. Contemporary praise and worship music birthed in the late 1960s to early 1970s grew into the giant Contemporary Christian music (CCM) industries of Maranatha!, Hosanna!, Integrity, Hillsong, and Bethel Music (to name but a few) that have come to dominate the musical expressions of many evangelical and charismatic congregations. Roman Catholic congregational song found its footing in the second generation after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council with the creation of thousands of new songs, prayers, and liturgical settings to assist in the “full, conscious, and active participation” of the laity through song. The “hymn explosion” that had begun around 1970 spread beyond its source in England as hymn writers around the world wrote texts and tunes that grappled with a Christian response to contemporary topics of social justice, world peace, and environmental stewardship. Finally, the indigenous songs of the global South and East have enriched and expanded the musical palate of the global church.
Throughout this time of rapid change and expansion, Liturgy has been at the forefront of exploring the history, theology, and praxis of church music for its stated purpose of liturgical renewal, formation, and unity for the life of the world. As one can see from even a cursory glance at the journal’s musical bibliography (included in this issue), many of the most widely respected scholars and practitioners of church music have written over 100 articles on the church’s song, with six issues devoted to the task. While topics and opinions vary widely among contributors, each writes to promote and strengthen the church’s musical offering of prayer and praise to the triune God.
What you hold in your (digital!) hands is a first for Liturgy. The purpose of this issue is not to cover new ground, but to look back over the thirty-six years and unearth some of the buried treasures on church music from the journal’s archives. This virtual issue makes no claims to be a “best of”; such claims are almost always misguided and subjective. Rather, the articles were chosen based on two criteria: 1) articles that highlight the breadth of work done on church music by a wide-range of voices; and 2) articles that are of continued practical use to the church musicians, worship leaders, and pastors who plan music for worship. Because of this inherent limitation, a bibliography is also included that documents all of the articles in Liturgy that have been written on the topic of church music to assist in further exploration.
May you find in these pages new (and old!) thoughts, innovations, and resources on church music that can be used to enrich the song of your local church, so we may join all of creation in glorifying God with a deeper and truer “Alleluia!”