By Mallory Carter
We are taught in the United Methodist church that our great God is living and breathing, interacting with us on a personal level. Certainly, generations of worshippers have experienced the same God that we are experiencing today. And countless “hymns, songs, and spiritual songs” are being written in an attempt to express the nature of God and God’s relationship to us. These are all valid and much-needed responses to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now, we are hearing that we must stick with so-called “traditional” hymns in our churches. You would think that Peter and Paul sat around singing Just As I Am or Nearer My God to Thee. The truth is most of the hymns contained in our United Methodist hymnal were written over the past few hundred years. While many of these songs are rich in meaning, they are no more important than the songs that we write now because we are still experiencing the same God that these hymn writers knew.
Some argue that contemporary worship songs are theologically shallow, but just because some songs are written in simple language doesn’t mean they are less theological in meaning. In fact, many of these songs are derived from the Psalms. As in the case of the psalmist, these songwriters write with refreshing honesty; they write songs of joy, songs of thanksgiving, songs of repentance, songs of sorrow, songs of searching, songs of hope. There are times when all we can say to God is “you are holy” or “I love you” or “I want to know you more” or simply, “Jesus.” After all, John did write in Revelation that those who are closest to the presence of God never stop saying, “holy, holy, holy…” a praise chorus if there ever was one!
I appreciate the heritage of believers who have come before me and have gained so much from reading the things they have written. But we are here now, and so is the Holy Spirit. God is still relevant; he is not some historical figurehead. So, let’s ask ourselves: What is the Holy Spirit doing now? What is God saying to us now?
It’s time for us to take up where our predecessors left off and continue expressing to the world and to each other this rich, beautiful relationship that, we the church, have with our Lord right now.
Carter serves as co-lay leader and pianist at New Covenant UMC in Byram. She is a senior at