Using Vintage Hymns in Worship: Hidden Treasures Rediscovered for Today’s Church


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Book Details

Rating: ★★★

Format: Paperback (104 pages)

Publisher: Sacristy Press

Date of Publication:

ISBN: 978-1-78959-164-4

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​For Christian believers, hymns offer an opportunity to bear witness to their faith and lift their voices in praise of God with their fellow worshippers. Hymns, even those dulled by familiarity, far from being trite and complacent, have the power to alert us to grave dangers facing the world today, and even to move us to decisive action.     

Tempting though it is to disregard older hymns thinking of them as past their sell-by date, for many of the faithful, these traditional texts form the bedrock of worship and liturgy. Yet, what can be done if treasured hymns express social attitudes we no longer share, for example with regard to gender or colonialism?

Gillian R. Warson blows the dust off unfashionable texts and argues that they can now be regarded as “vintage”. She argues that hymn singing can continue as a flourishing tradition with old and new coexisting comfortably alongside each other, and suggests that vintage hymn texts should be lovingly preserved so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.


Warson evidently appreciates the potency of adding tunes to verses, and of how verses themselves are amenable to memory. And this feel for language continues in the sensitive way in which she discusses the major issues and apparent obstacles to singing of some hymns. Here, difficult questions of gender inclusivity, militaristic vocabulary, anachronisms, and verses redolent with the theme of empire are fully faced and discussed in a nuanced way. The meanings of words slip and slide, change and develop. But hymnody is a living literary tradition. I warmed to the judgement expressed here that too often “popularity seems to trump suitability”. The final chapter, a re-reading of C. F. Alexander’s “All things bright and beautiful” in the light of the environmental crisis, is a perceptive reflection… This is a gem of a little book and all who have the responsibility and privilege of leading worship — musicians and ministers alike — would benefit from reading it.

The Revd Christopher Irvine, The Church Times

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