"I believe the history of the church is encoded in her hymns, and the story of christianity is enfolded in it's songs. If you know the hymns of the ages, you'll know the history of the church."
-Robert J Morgan
I didn't realise until I received my copy of 'Then Sings My Soul The Story of Our Songs: Drawing Strength from the Great Hymns of Our Faith' for review that it is actually the third in a series of books that Robert J Morgan has written on Hymnody. Fortunately it reads wonderfully as a stand alone book too, as I don't have copies of the first two books!!
The book opens with a history of worship in the church, taking you through from Biblical Hymns, Ancient Hymns, Medieval, German, English and Gospel Music through to Contemporary praise. It's brief, fast-paced and fascinating. I could barely put it down. Understanding how worship styles have always been controversial (it's not just about whether you use an electric guitar or an organ) brings perspective to the discussions happening within church today.
I was overwhelmed with admiration for Benjamin Keach (1640) who underground church voted to allow hymn singing in their services, but decided to keep hymns to the end of the service after sermon and prayers so that those who voted in the opposition were able to 'go freely forth' and remain a part of the congregation without feeling like they had to compromise on their personal convictions.
Next is a section on lesser known hymns, and how they came to be written with the stories behind them; part three covers the stories behind six of the author's favourite hymns; part four is how and why we should integrate hymns into our personal, and congregational, worship times and finally the epilogue.
This is genuinely a fantastic book which I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in worship and or song writing. My husband has always enjoyed high church services and regularly attends chapel services at our school voluntarily, just to join in with the hymn singing. I've never understood that, but after reading 'Then Sings My Soul', I think I'm starting to get it.