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Hymnology


From California to the World

In the time-honoured "Cantor Cristão", the older brazilian baptist hymnal, we have a hymn (nš 436) that is very appropriate for singing in meetings with a missionary emphasis.
Charles Hutchison Gabriel (1856-1932) wrote the words and music for the hymn "Send the Light" especially for Foreign Missions Sunday, which was to be commemorated by the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, in San Francisco (California), on Easter Sunday of 1890.
In Brazil, Gabriel's hymn was translated by Solomon Louis Ginsburg (1867-1927), and given the title "Dai-nos luz" (Give Us Light).
Gabriel alludes to his church: "Let us pray that Grace may everywhere abound". In Ginsburg's translation, this phrase was given a different meaning that had to do with the difficulties of his missionary work in Brazil's interior. In Portuguese the phrase came out this way: "Yes, this light of Jesus that illumines the way we must follow should shine out everywhere".
The underlying and subconscious concerns of Gabriel and Ginsburg were different, though they were contemporaries. Those of Gabriel evidence a certain economic-political-theological background, while those of Ginsburg show a pragmatic-social-spiritual foundation.
In the first verse, when Gabriel refers to "the restless wave", may have been warning against the Populist movement, the migration to California or the evolutionist leanings, which were upsetting politicians, businessmen and theologians at the time.
In the second, the "golden offering" may have been a reference to the dispute between Populists (a gold and silver standard for the currency) and the Republicans (a gold standard exclusively).
In the fourth, Gabriel recommends, right at the time of the Gold Rush, that believers "gather jewels" ... but for "a crown above" ...
The intimate concerns of Ginsburg are more evident in the first verse ("a widespread cry", "in darkness, full of dread"): Ginsburg makes himself spokesman for the anxiety of the populace for light, for their surroundings and for their souls.
So, we have been able to verify that this hymn was produced with two different areas of focus, since the two authors came from different societies and cultures.
What else have we shown? That even after 107 years, with great changes in the economic, political and social conditions of the United States and Brazil, the spiritual situation remains the same: both of these peoples need the blessed light of the Gospel. Back

Opinions on Music in Worship (extracts)

In his paper presented in July of 1996 to the Baptist World Alliance's Commission on Worship, in Hong Kong, M.J.Quicke wrote:
The last 30 years have proved the most momentous period for music in worship with a dramatic increase in the variety and vitality ... new music in worship coincides with the beginnings of charismatic renewal in mainstream Protestant denominations"
"Donald Gee ... aptly described this movement as Pentecost outside Pentecost. Like many Baptist groups around the world, responses within the UK to this movement ranged from a fearful refusal ... to an enthusiastic embracing of the movement". ..."It is important to distinguish between the impact of charismatic theology as compared with that of charismatic culture in British Baptist churches, for there has been arguably much less influence of the former than the latter with regard to worship".
"In 1989 a survey of British Baptist churches found that 22% of them identified closely with charismatic renewal, but a far larger proportion, probably amounting to around 80%, has been influenced in their worship styles."
"Commenting on the background to the Baptist Praise and Worship hymn-book (1991), the preface confirms that since the mid-60's, "the ecumenical and charismatic movements had challenged many of the more rigid traditions of worship, and there had been an explosion of hymn writing".
"We must be careful not to limit the impact of the charismatic movement to the issue of music in worship. However, the most obvious feature of the movement in these last three decades has been a new worship style. ... The advent of new music and a much greater element of congregational participation has dramatically changed the culture and spirituality of many British church. ... the majority of British Baptist churches now have songbooks which are additional to the hymnbooks, and many also employ an Over Head Projector to involve congregational participation ... many fellowships have developed music groups in which there may be considerable musical skills, though not necessarily worship leading gifts".

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About the situation in his country, John Simpson wrote:


"It is hard to find a congregation in Australia these days where the choice of music in worship is not an issue. The first signs of change appeared years ago when the green Baptist Hymn Book was replaced in numbers of our churches by alternative books. ... Since those days, there has been a proliferation of new songs and the humble hymn or songbook has been superseded by the overhead projector in many places. Very few churches are buying the latest Baptist Praise and Worship edition. ... it is not a matter of the new hymnology being better that the old".
Simpson appointed to the really important matter, the meaning in worship, with these arguments:
"We lack clarity of purpose in our Sunday morning services. ... we still have not understood the purpose and nature of the worship of God."
"We are not sure whether we want to focus on evangelism or worship. ... can two very different spiritual endeavors be accomplished at the same time? ... Our approach to an evangelistic goal will be rather different from a worship experience." ...
"A single minded focus on a given form of music has significant limitations.
Given that the future of the church is seen to rely on the winning of a younger generation to faith, some churches have made it quite plain to all that their music is selected with them alone in mind. ... all generations should be helped to understand each other's needs." ...
"There is good and bad in old and new.
Some of the old hymns had great meaning in their day but the choice of language, the images and the underlying sentiments offer little substance now. ... But some of the newer songs are no better. ... There is a need for discernment and the exercise of courage in making assessments as to what will be uplifting for the people we know".

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Milburn Price, american educator and guest lecturer in 1992 annual meeting of Baptist musicians of Brazil, presented also his opinions to the BWA's Commission on Worship:
"An astute observer of Baptist worship practices around the world in recent years might say, "There's trouble among Baptists", related to the ways in which we worship in general, but particularly regarding the music which we use in our worship."
"... I have heard of tensions which have surfaced in Baptist congregations in the United States, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina, Australia, Nigeria, Sweden, Korea, and Canada."
"... It is a struggle between those who prefer the music which has been traditional for a particular setting ... and those who prefer new musical sounds, usually sounds that are strongly influenced by the music of popular culture. In churches in the United States, Great Britain, and others countries influenced by Euro-American cultural traditions, the traditional music may be of the Western classical tradition, others forms of church music influenced by that classical tradition, or various combinations of gospel songs and religious folk songs."
"In churches of other cultures, the traditional music may be either music which, because of the influence of missions work, reflects Euro-American worship traditions, or it may include forms of indigenous music which have become customary for that culture."
"We should treasure the heritage of the past.
The rejection of past traditions in music and worship which is found among some contemporary Baptists seems strangely dissonant with the celebratory tone of the psalmist's affirmation that "my heritage is beautiful to me" (Psalm 16:6, NAS).
"... use of representative selections of music from the past reveals the ways in which faithful church musicians (as composers/ performers) and often pastors (as text writers) have expressed depths of faith through their creative gifts and, in so doing, have blessed their congregations by leading them in worshiping God."

"We should be open to musical expressions.
... the early churches were expected to sing psalms, which provide a musical link to the heritage of Jewish worship. But they were also to sing hymns and spiritual songs - expressions of their new faith ...".
"Guidelines for Music Selection
... there is a difference between creative efforts toward crafting melody, harmony, and rhythm into a purposeful whole, and less satisfying efforts which rely upon cliche, weak imitation, rhythmic dominance, or decibel level for effect". Back

Two Hymns Related to the "Titanic"

The circumstantial hymn

The English luxury liner "Titanic" on her maiden voyage, from Southampton, England to New York, U.S.A., colided with an iceberg, shortly after midnight, Sunday, April 14, 1912, suffering one of history's worst maritime disasters, in which 1500 died and only 700 survived.
The ship was considered by its builders to be 'unsinkable'. One British government's inspector, after going over the craft, actually said, "Not even God could sink this ship". But the ship sank in less than three hours.
The story of the shipwreck has many versions, as does the use of the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee" (The Baptist Hymnal, no.458), by Sarah Fuller Flower Adams and Lowell Mason, translated by João Gomes da Rocha (Cantor Cristão, no.283, and Hinário para o Culto Cristão, n ° 399, brazilian baptist hymnals) with the title "Mais perto quero estar" (I want to be closer).
According to one version, the words were sung by the ship's passengers to the melody "Bethany", and played by the ship's band; this version is probably based on circumstantial music from the films, "Titanic" (1953), "A Night to Remember" (1958), "S.O.S.Titanic" (1979) and "Raise the Titanic!" (1980).
However, this version has been contested by English observers, who argue that the melody "Bethany" was not associated with the words of Sarah Adams; the words were sung to another melody.
Now, with the film, "Titanic" (1997), a third version has emerged: the words were not sung; just three violinists played the melody "Bethany". Perhaps because, in the opinion of James Cameron, director of the film, we no longer sing traditional hymns ...

The prophetic hymn


Solomon Louis Ginsburg, in his autobiography, makes a point of relating the importance of the episode in his own life.
On the eight of April, 1902, in Maceió, Alagoas, Brazil, he wrote a hymn about a shipwreck (Cantor Cristão, no.325); ten years later, Ginsburg went through an extraordinarily impressive experience.
In 1912, arriving in London, he immediately reserved passage to New York. Some trips were canceled, leaving him the option of traveling on the "Majestic", on the 2nd of April, or on the "Titanic", timed for the 10th of April. Ginsburg tells us that he had a strong desire to travel on the "Titanic", but decided to up his arrival in New York.
Traveling in a very modest vessel, Ginsburg arrived in New York on that very tragic Sunday. Had he delayed in Lisbon just one week, he would have been obliged to travel on the "Titanic". Back


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