I have an objection to the music I see and hear in most churches these days. I've commented on it before, but to quickly re-iterate: I consider the whole "worship team" phenomenon a travesty, because it takes something Scripture contemplates as interactive and replaces it with a performance. But even in churches where the singing is largely interactive, I've noticed a trend away from actual hymns written for congregational singing and towards songs written to be performed. I'm not saying they're bad songs, just that the vast majority of people can't sing them. So making me try to follow some (possibly wonderful) song made famous by some professional singer or another doesn't really move me to worship: I don't hear a wonderful song, I hear many people (like me) slaughtering it.
But I didn't actually set out to regale you with my curmudgeonly views.
I remember several years ago a friend told me a professor of his in Bible School had encouraged his students to keep a hymnbook to use in their devotions. I had already stumbled across that through experience, but I find it's excellent advice. Singing is part of worship, and no less a part of individual worship.
So I have a few hymnbooks. Most (all?) of my hymnbooks are of a "brethren" persuasion, which ought not to surprise anyone. Here's the list of my hymnbooks I can remember off the top of my head:
- Spiritual Songs: I have several of these: some in leather, the rest in hardcover. This is probably my favourite hymnbook: it's the 1978 hymnbook from the "reunification" of "grant", "kelly", "booth", "stuart", and "nhh brethren," to name a few. So it's basically a convergence of several versions of Little Flock, but with some jewels from people like CAC thrown in.
- Little Flock: my copy is old and battered, but I still love it. It was a gift from my wife before we got married.
- Believer's Hymn Book: this is what I grew up with---the classic "open brethren" hymnbook. My copy is leather-bound, and has music in it. Those two features cost me a pretty penny back in '92 or so. I sometimes wish I was in an assembly that uses BHB, just so I could use this book once in a while. I think I've taken it to fewer than two dozen meetings since I bought it.
- Hymns of Worship and Remembrance: this is the black, hard-bound hymnbook so popular among "chapels." It was supposed to be an improvement on the Believer's Hymn Book, and it is in some ways. I had them engrave my name in the front cover when I bought it, just in case I ever take it to a meeting. I don't want it misappropriated.
- Redemption Songs: old-school "chapel" gospel hymns. Good stuff.
- Choice Hymns: gospel hymns. It's all right, but nothing brilliant.
So why do I have some many hymnbooks? Part of it's culture: in many "brethren" circles, you're expected to bring your own hymbook to the meetings. But part of it is devotional: singing quietly by myself is actually part of worship and devotion.
I frequently find myself remembering a line from a hymn I sang at one meeting or another: having a hymnbook there helps me remember exactly what it was we were singing. And perusing a hymnbook can be a good way to start out worshipping. A few idle moments can turn into a private little worship service.