Recently, many Christians and pastors have been discussing online about hymns. They discuss about the lyrics of Cantonese modern hymns. Hymn is an integral part of the life for Christian. From daily devotion to God, regular fellowship gatherings, to weekly worship gatherings, we have an opportunity to sing different styles of hymns from different ages. Based on the music arrangement and the lyrics of hymns, we probably divide the hymn into “traditional hymn” and “modern hymn”. There is a rather interesting phenomenon in the Warrington branch, we generally use “modern hymns” in our Saturday worship, while on Sunday worship, our leaders will use “traditional hymns” more. Personally, I am not an expert on singing and music. However, as a christian, I would also like to share my personal views on christian hymns.
Personally I love traditional poetry. I grew up in a traditional local church. My church will use the tradition hymns for worship only. We will never use modern hymns in our Sunday worship. The only way that I can sing modern hymns will be during fellowship time and small group meetings. Because of this, I gradually feel that modern hymns should not be used in general worship. Of course, this is a very outlandish notion and I have repented for today. Most of the traditional hymns of Chinese church come from the Western Christian world, which has historical significance and can be regarded as the intangible cultural heritage of Christianity. Generally, the traditional hymn has three or four verses, each verse contains their own different message, and each verse comes with a refrain with the same content. For example, for the hymns “How Great Thou Art”, the composer talks about the creation of the Lord in verse one and talks about the Lord’s redemption in the second verse. He refers the heavenly hope in the third verse. The hymn comes with the refrain which is the climax of the hymn. When senior Chinese believers translate the lyrics of hymn from foreign languages into Chinese, they will use the words which are generally concise and beautiful. I feel that traditional hymns is elegant generally. After graduating from theology, God lead me to serve in a church. All the brothers and sisters are under 30. They do not like to sing the traditional hymns. They prefer to use modern hymns for worship. Therefore, I had the opportunity to recognise different types of modern hymns. Gradually, I love modern hymns very much. Regarding music arrangement, modern hymns have more changes as the traditional hymns always come with the same pattern. In addition, modern hymns always come with modern music and lyric. That’s the reason why modern hymns are accepted by the new generation of believers. In terms of content, modern hymns often focus on expressing the personal feelings and the personal religious experience. Perhaps, this is under the influence of post-modernis.
Indeed, we need to appreciate both traditional hymns and modern hymns. Both of them can lead us to worship our Lord deeply. Both of them play a very important role of our spiritual development. However, I have noticed that some of the brothers and sisters do not like to sing the traditional hymns because of the translation of the lyrics. For some traditional hymns, the lyrics and the music do not match. When we sing in Cantonese, some pronunciation is very strange and people may laugh at us. I believe that if we re-translate the lyric for some traditional hymns, brothers and sisters will be more willing to sing the traditional hymns. As for modern hymns , if there are more hymns regarding the redemption of our Lord and the commitment towards the kingdom of God, I believe it will be of great benefit to the spiritual growth of believers. May the Lord use different kinds and styles of hymns to build up His people.
Pastor Winson Chan