Hymn Renaissance

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Founder
Erik Routley
Time Period
1975
Description
The Hymn Renaissance, often called Hymn Explosion, refers to growth in new hymnals starting in Britain, and subsequently extending to the United States.

In the United States, little serious hymnody had impacted the Protestant Church since the Social Gospel movement’s contributions (1890-1930). The Great Depression and World War II diminished both resources and appetites for new hymns.

However, by the mid-1970s, both denominational and nondenominational publishers (such as Word and Hope) began turning out a steady stream of new hymnals incorporating a wealth of new material, ranging from liturgical hymns, to praise choruses, to African American spirituals. By the 21st century, the dynamic growth of Latino Culture influenced the world hymnody as well.

British hymn writers, like Erik Routley mainly led the Hymn Renaissance, but United States hymn writers, like Thomas Troeger and Carol Doran, also contributed to the growth of the modern hymnal.
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Narrative
The Hymn Renaissance, often called Hymn Explosion, refers to developments in British and, subsequently, United States hymnody associated with the leadership of Erik Routley at the Consultation on Church Music, Dunblane, Scotland in 1962. There, a group of ministers and church musicians sought to revitalize congregational song with hymns that reflected the culture of their day. While few lasting songs derive from this movement, its spirit of innovation and change was influential.

In the United States, little serious hymnody had impacted the Protestant Church since the Social Gospel movement’s contributions (1890-1930). It produced numerous hymns that achieved widespread acceptance such as "Lead on, O King Eternal" (1887), "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life" (1903), "Joyful, Joyful, We adore Thee"(1907) and "God of Grace and God of Glory" (1931).

But the Great Depression and World War II diminished both resources and appetites for new hymns. Likewise, hymnal production was limited with the practical result that a rather fixed canon of traditional hymns arose among many Protestants. Because most hymnals had historically experienced a shelf life of 20 or more years, the process of introducing new works to the public was quite slow. That challenge was partly met by the issuance of supplements to many standard hymnals where fresh ideas could be tested. In addition, the acceptance of a common lectionary among many liturgical churches fostered publications such as Hymns for the Lectionary: To Glorify the Maker’s Name by Thomas Troeger and Carol Doran.

By the mid-1970s, both denominational and nondenominational publishers (such as Word and Hope) began turning out a steady stream of new hymnals incorporating a wealth of new material, ranging from liturgical hymns to praise choruses and African American spirituals. While the term Hymn Explosion (or Renaissance) is often limited to the more formal hymns of the British writers (Timothy Dudley-Smith, Fred Pratt Green, Fred Kaan, Brian Wren), it also reflects a burgeoning of vitality on multiple levels: new hymns and tunes in many styles and traditions, new hymnals and hymnal companions from every denomination (reflecting a high degree of hymnological scholarship) and the contributions of related organizations such as the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, The American Guild of Organists and Choristers Guild.

By the 21st century, an explosion of world hymnody had impacted hymnals and songbooks, especially with the dynamic growth of the Latino culture. Although numerous United States hymn writers of serious new work were active in contributing to supplements and hymnals (Peter Cutts, Carl Daw, Carol Doran, Gracia Grindal, Shirley Murray, Thomas Troeger), their widespread acceptance has been modest.

While the developments of contemporary "Praise and Worship" styles have traditionally not been considered part of the Hymn Explosion, contributors such as Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (both British) have captured widespread, cross-generational attention in the United States with their "modern hymns."

The role of technology also has been significant in the proliferation of hymnody, reflecting its capacity to make the process of creating and disseminating new works more efficient. Church membership in the Christian Copyright Licensing (1988) organization exponentially simplified the complex issues of using copyrighted materials and the ability to project words and accompanying graphics onto large screens adds a flexibility to creative worship that greatly encourages a dynamic use of congregational materials. It remains to be seen what contributions will prove lasting.
Photographs

Singing Hymns- Flickr- photo by mizmareck (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Lutheran Hymnals- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Pastordavid (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Mel R. Wilhoit

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