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March 06, 2008



loved the HMMMMMMMM?'s about hymns - very good.

looking forward to singing your new hymn some Sunday morning soon

Mark Thomas

Dear Dr. Gordan,

I only attended the first lecture (so I think I missed the discussion about Watts), but I would say that you 'more than acquitted yourself', much more. Rarely have I been in a lecture when the room has been full of laughter (although I am a little irritated with myself that I can't remember the precise comments that made me laugh!)

That first lecture seemed to generate a duscussion about 'reasoned experience' and I was intrigued by some of the comments made by your 'interrogators'. It got me wondering the extent to which we should acknowledge the place of (occasional) 'ecstatic' experience that goes beyond an individuals ability to reason / work it out. Indeed, would 'lost in wonder. love and praise' potentially give rise to such an ecstatic experience? I am all for using the 3 grey cells I have in my head to try to 'reason' what happens to me as I encounter the Divine but, putting my lack of brain power aside, does there not come a point when the Weslyan quadrant of 'reason' is not able to reach beyond the 'finite' and is unable to comprehend the mind/way/will of God? [you'll appreciate that these comments are more a response to your questioners than to your lecture, but your thought would be very welcome]

On the lighter side:-

In the light of John's editirial checks and quality control of Charles' hugh output - In a world almost overwhelmed with 'blogging', I wonder whether you think we should be praying for more John's than Charles' to inhabit our virtual world?

Do you know if the Edwin Stephen Griffiths lecture heirarchy are intending to publish your lectures? If not, would you consider posting some of the material on your blog? I'm sure you can/will use your insightly research again, but...well, I really enjoyed the time on Tuesday and would enjoy a re-run in some form.

andy jones

"With their out of date and frankly meaningless discourse to most folk outside, and increasingly inside, the church what now is the apologetic and evangelistic value of traditional hymns?"


I get despondent when the back row of early 20 somethings at our church look glum and blank whenever we sing hymns at least once or twice in a service (in the same way that I despair of the tuts and page rattling of some older members when we sing something a little more affective than cognitive).

It's clear that the poetic mode of expression that I love and connect with often now fails to connect with the younger element. What do they teach them in school these days?. I fell in love with poetry at school precisely because I didn't instantly understand it and because I wanted to. I brought a developing literary appreciation to Bible study when I discovered it and found the two worlds had many things in common. But what about the kids (and others) who don't get poetry?

Performance poetry (with its family likeness to stand up comedy) and rap (with its family likeness to conversation) might give some clues to what connects with some younger minds. But there are others who aren't part of that scene. Jesus' parables exemplify a cultural form that connected instantly with a mass audience but had a long afterburn. Maybe the dilemma with hymnody is it has the afterburn but not the immediacy of instant connection and recognition, the spark that makes someone want to dig deeper and find out what it's about. I think if we examine the theology of worship inherent in much modern material the writers are expecting to approach God in a less cognitive way - to make affective connections, linked to much simpler doctrinal and devotional expressions, and to do it much more instantly. Theologically we might want to question that desire for the instant, but it's a cultural tension as well as a theological one.

There's intelligence and wealth of spiritual insight and experience lovingly wrapped up in our hymns that we lose at our peril. But the challenge of making that accessible for a non-literary generation, without simply dumbing it down, calls for new Watts' and Wesleys.


"With their out of date and frankly meaningless discourse to most folk outside, and increasingly inside, the church…."

I’m not convinced that some people think that closely about the words they are singing. For some the singing is what has to happen before you to get to the sermon. In an effort to support people and children as they were singing I tried unpacking some of the discourse, vocab etc…….this was apparently appreciated by some and for others it apparently "spoiled the song". Interesting thinking about the meaning of the words would spoil a song. As usual lots of big ideas here I need to go and think about!

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