The resilience of the eighteenth century hymn in contemporary Church of Ireland (Anglican) worship : a liturgical study
Baxter, David Joseph
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The combination of observational, anecdotal and circumstantial evidence suggests that, in the present-day Christian church, older, traditional hymns are slowly but inexorably being replaced by modern, contemporary ones. Whilst it is a truism that hymnody, like every other aspect of civilisation, moves forward with the times, there still remains a large number of people, congregations and clergy for whom the early eighteenth century English hymn is a genre that remains ever-popular. This research focuses deliberately on the eighteenth century hymn for four main reasons. First, hymns from this period are widely used in most Christian denominations. Second, the eighteenth century was a particularly fertile period for hymnody. Third, this was the era of Watts and Wesley, arguably two of the greatest hymn writers of all time; their burgeoning popularity thrust the eighteenth century into a period of proclivity for hymn writing. Finally, the whole area of hymnody in the Church of Ireland appears to be under-researched. Thus, in seeking to determine why older, more traditional hymns continue to be published in Church of Ireland hymnals this research fills a very obvious gap. This study establishes that this resilience is real and not merely perceived. Eighteenth century hymns are still widely sung in today’s Church, irrespective of size, location, setting, status, leadership or congregation. The study explores the many reasons behind this resilience—reasons that go beyond the more obvious musical and liturgical ones and highlight the impact of hymnody from a variety of angles.
- Humanities