By a random set of circumstances, I had the opportunity to sing at the last service of a very old, very traditional church this Sunday, accompanied by a huge pipe organ. Like many older churches across America, this church struggling to sustain itself, and a partnership has been developed with a younger church that will merge both the building and the services. This transition will be good in the long run – it was probably the best solution – but this traditional service will be no more. 

This service reminded me so much of the church I attended as a child. The leader wore a suit and conducted, and the singing was formal and completely lacking any spontaneity. I thought this style of worship even when I was a kid, almost 40 years ago. But coming back to it, I really saw the beauty of it. And while I am glad that this church will be infused with young people and a service style that will be more relevant to this generation, it was bittersweet, and left me with all kinds of existential angst about the dying out of traditions. There really is something so profound about all of these old hymns. I didn’t like them as a child, but now I cherish them. 

It made me grateful for this Beer and Hymns gathering thing that we have started, because it is a way to keep these songs alive for the younger generation. At our last gathering, one of the things we noted was that many of the people who attended were much younger than us, and still connecting with these songs.

As I’m getting older, I’m finding I’m less impressed with the worship services that feel like a concert, and really enjoying our little hymn sing-alongs for the simplicity and the more communcal feel. If you grew up in church, what was the worship style like? Do you wrestle with this tradition of tradition over relevance? 

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