The History of Hymns Part 2

Who wrote the first hymn? | When were hymns first sung?

For many years acceptable church music consisted primarily of Catholic monks singing Gregorian Chant Latin hymns. The 16th century Reformation resulted in the formation of the Protestant Church and in a new kind of church music -- Hymns that were written to be sung by the common people of the church congregation, in a language they could understand. (See: History of Hymns Part 1) Over the next 200-plus years, this new type of music was developed until it resulted in the very hymns that many Protestant Christians (and some Catholics) still sing today.

It would be many years after the reformation that the Catholic Church would add this type of hymn to their tradition. In the 19th century, the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act opened the door for hymns other than the Latin Gregorian Chants to be written and sung. In order to make this change while still staying true to their unique Catholic worship style, an entirely new group of hymns came to life, including the popular To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King, Holy God We Praise Thy Name,and Come Holy Ghost.

Also emerging in the early 19th century were the Gospel Music hymns such as I Love to Tell the Story by William Fischer and Blessed Assurance by Fanny Crosby (Fanny who was blind, wrote more than 8,000 songs). This style of music became popular during the great revival camp meeting days of such evangelists as Dwight D. Moody.

In the early 20th century the Pentecostal movement determined to bridge the gap between Christians of different races (ex: 1906 Azusa Street Revival). One result of this resolve was that black Gospel hymns and musicians began to gain popularity with white Believers. Precious Lord written by Thomas Dorsey and His Eye is On the Sparrow (author unknown) both sung by the great Mahalia Jackson, are examples of a distinctive musical style that crossed racial lines.

The Jesus People movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s introduced new ideas about church propriety and fresh new hymns to the Church. Songs such as Easter Song by Second Chapter of Acts, Alleluia by Chuck Girard, Lord, You're Beautiful by Keith Green and The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power by Andre Crouch were first appreciated by the younger generation and then over time adapted into mainstream church society.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Integrity Music and Maranatha! Music introduced the church to As the Deer Pants for the Water, You Are My Hiding Place, and many other hymns designed to take corporate and private worship to a new level of intimacy with God. Hymns of praise began to emerge regularly from popular and obscure Christian musicians around the world. Praise and worship within the Church took on a new sound that has continued to grow ever more intense and beautiful over the past 20-plus years.

For 2,000 years songs of praise, old and new have been rising from the collective heart and mouth of the worldwide Church. The introduction of the Internet in the 1990s has made it possible for Christians to see and hear praise and worship sounding across U.S., Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Holy Lands, and to recognize that the sound is the same wherever the people of God gather together. It is a sound that grows every day more like the praises of heaven - a sound that will soon usher in the glory of God that will cover the whole earth (Habakkuk 2:14).
(See also: What is Worship?:)

Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen

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