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One of the things I love most about Harvest is the congregational singing! I noticed it the very first time I visited Harvest in January of 1994. I was there as a guest preacher, and I remember saying to Joanne when I got home – “Those people can really sing!” Praise the Lord that this has remained a key part of Harvest worship for all these years. The congregational singing at Harvest is one of the things I most cherish about our church. There is something uniquely precious about robust congregational singing. It is a deeply moving experience to hear the saints of God around you pouring their hearts into songs of praise to our Lord! It often brings tears to the eyes. It reminds us that we are not alone – in either the pains of life or the joys of the gospel. We are a part of a body, the precious body of Christ. I suspect you feel the same way.

Consequently, I know that when people raise a concern about the songs we sing, they are doing it out of a place of deep appreciation for what we have and a genuine concern that we do not lose that. I’m very thankful for that. However, we do hear concerns from time to time. Sandra TerHaar, our Worship Coordinator, reports, “

“I receive input from members that we are not singing enough psalms, or not singing enough Trinity Hymnal songs, or not singing enough Contemporary songs.  I kind of think that if we’re getting that input from all worshipers, maybe we’re in the ballpark.”

The concerns are always raised in a loving way, with a tender tone. And we thank you for that! But in this post, I’d like to address a specific concern I’ve heard several times recently; namely, that our song selection is becoming more traditional. In other words, the concern is that we are not singing as many contemporary songs as we used to sing.

I asked Sandra TerHaar, our Worship Coordinator, to do a quick survey of the songs we’ve used in worship to see if this is the case. We took a snapshot of the first two months of the year for 2014, 2016, 2019, 2024.

Here is a summary of her report.  

“A quick comparison of the use of contemporary songs vs. traditional songs (e.g. Trinity Hymnal, Psalter Hymnal, and Trinity Psalter) during the two-month period of January-February was conducted for the years 2014, 2016, 2019, and 2024.”

Here are the results.  

Year

Total # of Songs

Contemporary Songs

Songs from Hymnals

Jan-Feb 2014

77

43%

57%

Jan-Feb 2016

94 (extra Sunday)

51%

49%

Jan-Feb 2019

77

49.4%

50.6%

Jan-Feb 2024

79

50.6%

49.4%

 

As you can see, 10 years ago we were singing slightly fewer contemporary songs. But since 2016, the numbers are nearly identical. 

This is very interesting since we don’t intentionally try to hit a certain percentage.  We focus on picking the best songs for each service, with a mind towards using both traditional and contemporary songs. The fact that we are consistently around 50/50 is somewhat remarkable.

It’s possible that the singing “feels” more traditional than it has in the past because we don’t currently have an instrumental group that uses bass guitar and drums as we did in the past. But the song selection has remained surprisingly consistent. 

Let me close with this reminder. Harvest is a wonderful blend of worship preferences and backgrounds. We have some folks from the Dutch Reformed background who appreciate selections from the blue Psalter Hymnal. Others were raised on the Trinity Hymnal and enjoy singing those familiar hymns of the faith. Some folks like the Psalms from the new Trinity Psalter Hymnal. We have others who love the old gospel hymns they grew up with. Our contemporary selections tend to be songs we’ve grown to love together. By using all these resources, I believe we are blessing the various parts of the body while still growing together in unity as one body. That seems like the way it ought to be.

The key is for us to appreciate our different backgrounds and preferences and joyfully sing the songs we don’t know as well or enjoy as much – in the comforting knowledge that others in the body are greatly blessed by it. The Lord not only delights in robust singing – but in the sincere love we express for one another as we sing. 

Most importantly, our deepest desire is to sing songs that are worthy of the worship of God and edifying for the faith and life of the congregation. We won’t always get it right and we are sincerely thankful for your input. Let’s strive to glorify God by keeping joyful, enthusiastic singing as a mark of our worship!

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