Over the last few months, I have had it in the back of my mind to choose various hymns and research their history. When I hear a new "contemporary" song that I really like, I often find out that it is actually a re-make of an older hymn. The Art History major in me is interested in the story behind these hymns. What was the writer going through? What did the song mean for that time period?
So, needless to say, I was really excited when I saw that there was actually a book that already did the work for me. Then Sings My Soul: Book 3 by Robert J. Morgan is the third (obviously) in a series of books that takes a deeper look at Christian hymns and their origins. After the introduction, Morgan divides the book into four parts: The History of Hymnody, Do You Know These Hymns?, Six Hymn Stories I Love to Tell, and Hymning in Private and Public.
Just the introduction had me. Morgan gives an exciting explanation of St. Francis of Assisi's "All Creatures of Our God and King" and illustrates how God truly has created the universe to sing praises to Him, just as Psalm 148 describes. I was excited to read that this third book is actually the first in the series to look more deeply at the history of certain hymns. For example, I didn't know that people used to carry hymnals to and from church, just like they did their Bibles. That explains to me why the elders in our church are still so darn set on how important it is to sing from the hymnals... (one of the silliest (I think) conflicts in our church (and probably many) is how the worship service should be conducted), but there is more to it than just music preference. Hymnals have a long rooted tradition.
It's true that there is a long and rich history to be celebrated in these hymns. Morgan chose some of my favorites, "I Am Not Skilled to Understand", "Victory in Jesus", "How Deep the Father's Love For Us", "The Old Rugged Cross", and "In Christ Alone". For some reason, knowing the story behind these songs makes them that much richer.
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