Friday, June 3, 2016



"WE DON'T NEED CONTEMPORARY SONGS... —in the Army; they do nothing for me and I know there are a lot of Salvationists who feel the same way." 

So stated an English Salvationist in a recent issue of the Salvationist, October 9, 1993. It is indicative of one of the tensions that is worldwide in nature as the wind of the Spirit moves in new ways to appeal to new people. It's an attitude that suggests that Army composers should forget about creating and focus on adapta¬tion—should stop writing new songs and concentrate on rearranging the old ones. Not that even this will, necessarily, satisfy the critic. 

She may well be concerned solely with singing of songs in old styles with old harmonies. In other words, the only good music is that which she, personally, prefers and everyone else should conform to her preferences. Ah, but we forget that the Army (like many other denominations and at many other times of reformation) was spawned in an atmosphere that challenged the stagnant quo...every song in our song book was contemporary at some time or another, many of them conceived in—of all unlikely places—taverns! 

There was a time when traditionalist church members un¬doubtedly said of The Salvation Army, like the writer to Salvationist, "We don't need contemporary songs...let's keep the (name of denomination) tradi¬tion alive!" Then, too, if we do not have a use for contemporary songs...songs that are written today, instead of yester¬day, what shall a composer do when God inspires him with something new to say... "Sorry, God...I can't use it...could you give it to someone else?" Maybe, of course, there is a difference between a contemporary song that continues a tradition of music and lyric (should I say "text" to satisfy the traditional¬ist?) and one that attempts to catch the wind of the Spirit that is captivating so many, including Salvationists, all over the world. It's basically the dif¬ference between saying, "Bless what I am doing" and "Help me to do what you are blessing." Who among us can second guess the Holy Spirit? If He sees fit to bless contemporary songs through using them as channels to pass that blessing through to the singer, who are we to try to quench that work of the Spirit? You see, it is not that the critic is may very well be that she is more blessed by traditional Army songs than contemporary ones. Neither is it wrong that those who like contemporary songs are not as turned on to traditional Army ones. What is, is! Our problems arise from polarization...from insisting that "my way is best and everyone else should follow my lead." The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You'll recall that I wrote a few years ago about a visit to an interdenominational church growth conference and felt decidedly uncomfortable because everyone else knew the songs except me...and many denominations were present. Who is out of step, I asked, the Army or the rest'? 

Looking through books of contemporary worship songs recently, it struck me that many of them are now already within our repertoire and that it is possible that critics, too, are singing them without realizing that they are of contemporary origin. 

What I know, cannot explain and can certainly not deny is that the singing of contemporary worship songs can result in a tangible presence of the Holy Spirit such as I have not felt in Army meetings for many years previous. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but I guess that one man's meat will always be another's poison!

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