Shunning 'Shine Jesus Shine'


Songwriter Graham Kendrick has managed to land in the book 50 People Who Buggered-Up Britain by Quentin Letts, a parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail condensed the book into three installments (menaces 1-20, menaces 21-35, menaces 36-50). For whatever it's worth, Kendrick ranked a lowly No. 39, which makes him less of a nuisance than Howard Schultz of Starbucks, the late Princess Diana, loudmouth John McEnroe, Magaret Thatcher, or the thoroughly modern twins, Topsy and Tim.

At GetReligion we are not above laughing at certain contemporary church music. Far from it. Still, Letts sounds both peevish and in over his head when blaming Kendrick for the devolution of British hymnody:

He started writing hymns in the late Sixties and has now written 400 of the ruddy things. Should it not be a strength of Anglican worship that it does not move with the times and instead provides continuity at a time of baffling change?

But no. It's out with the harmonium! In with the electric guitar! Out with the hymns sung by our forebears, such as He Who Would Valiant Be and Hills Of The North. In with the roughagerich Bind Us Together or the negro spiritual cum grammatical solecism It's A Me, O' Lord.

The sturdy hymns of England, musical embodiment of the stoicism, resolve and undemonstrative solidarity of our nation, are in severe peril, and all thanks to ill-shaven remnants of the late Sixties -- grinning inadequates who have never got over the fact that they weren't Cat Stevens.

It could have been worse. Letts blames Ronald Jasper (menace No. 26) for nothing less than Britain's notoriously sparse church attendance:

The turbulent Jasper, Dean of York from 1975-84, was the man who more than any other liturgical scholar was responsible for the erosion of the finest expression of religion in the English language, the Book of Common Prayer.

Change, change, change, that was Jasper's goal -- and finally he got his way.

At his urging the Church produced the Alternative Service Book, the dreaded ASB, unrhythmic, babyish, its prose as tinny as a can of beans.

No wonder our churches are nowadays so much more empty. Jasper caused this, the bloody fool.

Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Telegraph brought a bit more depth to a brief blog item about Letts' shots at Kendrick and Jasper:

Change can be tough, and is often not for the better, but young people want to be entertained.

The success of churches such as Holy Trinity Brompton and Hillsong shows that there are thousands who want the modern worship songs.

A nostalgic longing for hymns of yore does not tackle the issue of appealing to the younger generation put off by notions of church as old and stuffy.

The problem with the drive to be more contemporary is that it's left a gulf in the style of worship and a scarcity of churches offering more traditional services.

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