Category Archives: musical styles

Edify Conference – building the church in word and song – set list

It was a joy over the weekend to serve at the first Edify Conference, hosted at our home church (Howick Baptist). We had a great time opening the Word and considering the importance of what we do when we sing together as the gathered church.

Cheryl and I were in Sydney for Emu Music’s Word in Song Conference last year, and in 2011 got to attend the WorshipGod conference hosted by Bob Kauflin. And after talking about the idea of a music / gathered worship conference on and off for years, it was great to finally have a go at hosting one in NZ ourselves in partnership with Rowan Hilsden and the team at Auckland EV.

It was also neat to meet and get to know Greg Cooper, a songwriter and musician from Sydney who served on the Edify band on Friday night and led several workshops on Saturday. I personally learned a lot from observing and considering how skillfully he played the guitar – in a way that served the band and supported the church singing. I also loved his servant-hearted attitude and easy-going nature.

I enjoyed playing guitar and sing in the Edify bands – once on Friday with a full band, and again on Saturday morning with a stripped-back, acoustic team. It was good to have a go at modelling congregational church music for different contexts.

A few people asked for the songs we sang over the weekend, so here is the set list below:






A Lament to the Lord – Two Poems

Some might have heard of this poem that does the rounds, particularly among our senior brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a call for singing the old hymns and laments the use of new songs, modernised words and the ongoing changes in our worship gatherings.

– Mavis Clark, “This England”, Spring 1990, Vol.23 No.1

They’ve brought you up to date Lord, down at Saint Cecilia’s.
They’ve pensioned off the organ, and they’re praising with guitars.
They’ve done it for the young ones; we want to draw them in,
But I do wish they could worship without making such a din.
For I’m growing rather deaf Lord, and when there’s all that noise,
It gets so very hard Lord, to hear your loving voice.

They’ve written brand new hymns Lord, with tunes that I don’t know,
So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so.
They’re very go-ahead Lord, they’re doing ‘series three’,
But the words are not so beautiful as the others used to be

They’ve modernised the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed
When the old ones were so perfect that they filled my every need.
My mind’s not quite so agile, as it was some years ago
And I miss the age-old beauty of the words I used to know.

It’s very clear to me Lord, I’ve overstayed my time;
I don’t take to change so kindly as I did when in my prime.
But it can’t be very long now before I’m called above,
And I know I’ll find you there Lord, and glory in your love.

So ’til then I’ll stick it out here, though it’s not the same for me,
But while others call you ‘You’, Lord, do you mind if I say ‘Thee’?

After some sleuthing on the Internet through historical archives (and a bit of cheeky wordsmithing), I think I’ve “discovered” the second poem in this series.

This poem is a call for singing the old metric psalms and laments the use of new hymns, modernised words and the ongoing changes in our worship gatherings (there’s nothing new under the sun…)

– circa 18th century, in the spirit of William Romaine1

They’ve brought you up to date, Lord, in the Chapel at Mark Lane2,
They’ve done it for the young ones; we want to draw them in
They’ve put aside the Psalms and now they worship God with hymns,
But I do wish they could sing without resorting to “Watts’ whims”.

They say he’s modernised the psalms to point to Jesus Christ3
But why change what was perfect? The Psalter has sufficed!
These hymns aren’t as divinely blessed as metric psalms, you see
If psalms were good enough for Christ, they’re good enough for me!4

These hymns are new and needless, they’re Quakerish and Popish,5
I’m scared that next they’ll start to bring in instrumental music
These hymns are just a money-making scheme for Watts to gain from,
Why use them? All our fathers got to heaven fine without them!

I miss the age-old beauty of the words I used to know
My mind’s not quite so agile as it was some years ago
And with these brand new hymns, Lord, they use tunes I do not know
So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so

It’s very clear to me, Lord – I’ve overstayed my time
I don’t take to change so kindly I did when in my prime
But it won’t be very long before I’m called above
And once I’m there I’ll sing the Psalms and glory in your love

Till then I’ll stick it out here, though it’s not the same for me
Though others think these hymns are great, I firmly disagree!

Note: I wrote this light-hearted parody to try and illustrate that what’s old was once new, and that by God’s grace Christians young and old can delight in the best old hymns of the faith, while also embracing the best songs that the coming generations have to offer, all so that Jesus might be more beautiful and believable to us.


  1. Who once said: “Christian congregations have shut out divinely inspired psalms and taken in Watts’s flights of fancy…” and “Why should Dr Watts, or any other hymn maker, not only take precedence over the Holy Ghost, but also thrust him utterly out of the church?” 
  2. Mark Lane Independent Chapel, Stoke Newington, where Isaac Watts began as assistant pastor 
  3. “But since I believe that any Divine Sentence or Christian Verse agreeable to Scripture may be sung, though it be composed by Men uninspired, I have not been so curious and exact in striving every where to express the ancient Sense and Meaning of David, but have rather exprest myself as I may suppose David would have done, had he lived in the Days of Christianity. And by this means perhaps I have sometimes hit upon the true Intent of the Spirit of God in those Verses, farther and clearer than David himself could ever discover, as St. Peter encourages me to hope. (1 Peter 1:11-12)” – Isaac Watts, Preface to The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, And Applied To The Christian State and Worship  
  4. Nahum Tate recounts the story of a servant-maid who disapproved of singing a revised version of the Psalms: “If you must needs know the plain truth of the matter, as long as you sung Jesus Christ’s Psalms, I sung along with ye; but now you sing Psalms of your own invention, you may sing by yourselves.” 
  5. Said Thomas Symmes in a newspaper editorial in 1723, about Isaac Watt’s hymns:
    1. It is a new way, an unknown tongue.
    2. It is not so melodious as the usual way.
    3. There are so many new tunes, we shall never have done learning them.
    4. The practice creates disturbances and causes people to behave indecently and disorderly. 5. It is Quakerish and Popish and introductive of instrumental music.
    6. The names given to the notes are bawdy, even blasphemous.
    7. It is a needless way, since our fathers got to heaven without it.
    8. It is a contrivance to get money.
    9. People spend too much time learning it, they tarry out nights’ disorderly.
    10. They are a company of young upstarts that fall in with this way, and some of them are lewd and loose persons. 

My seminar at STAND 2013 on hymns

God was kind to allow me the opportunity to present a seminar on hymns during the most recent STAND conference. I previously shared on the STAND website some of the reasons why I did this seminar.

If you’re interested in listening to it, here’s thelink to the recording, here are the notes, and here’s the slides that went with it:


Personally I think it went OK, though I typically don’t speak well in settings when I’m nervous, and I also wish as follow-up everyone who attended just listen to the more detailed and helpful lecture series by Kevin Twit. I hope more practice in future will help me to be a clearer and more helpful speaker.

But I had a patient and understanding audience who asked good questions, both during and after the seminar. I’m especially thankful that people were genuinely interested and there was a good group of young adults present and challenged to consider what hymns really are, why they’re worth passing on to the next generation, and some ways we could do that.

For example, I chatted with someone from a Reformed Church (she said they sing both psalms and hymns psalms only) who commented how helpful it was to discuss this topic. In addition, I heard afterwards that it gave a few young adults good food for thought on using and singing hymns, so I thank God for that.

As usual I prepared too much to say in too little time. If I could do it over again, other things worth mentioning would be:

  • More specific ways of using hymns in personal and family worship
  • How to use tunes we know to sing hymn texts we don’t know (this can be really fun and rewarding to do)
  • some good examples of hymns that have been set to more accessible music

Anyways, where to from here? Probably just keep on learning and passing hymns to the next generation… like this…



Some reflections on singing together at STAND 2013


Cheryl and I have just come out of a busy weekend of serving during our home church’s Stand for the Gospel conference. This was the 4th year we helped out (this time around I organised the music ministry and helped plan the general sessions, taught a seminar on hymns, and also helped to get the website and registrations system up and running, Cheryl helped to bake some food for morning tea and looked after E all weekend). It was a privilege to serve over 300 people from across NZ (and Australia) and boy, did the LORD meet with us through the preaching, singing and praying of His Word.

I’ll share a bit about how the hymns seminar went in my next post. But for now, here’s some of my reflections on planning and leading the gathered worship through 20+ songs during STAND 2013:

  1. The singing was LOUD. For example on Friday night by the time we hit the last chorus of our first song (Behold Our God), I was struggling to hear the instruments either side of me because of the volume of the church. That’s a good problem to have! As a worship leader it’s wonderful to hear the church singing praise to God, almost to the point where we could have just stopped leading from the front and let the truths being sung just wash over us. So thankful that we experienced this time and time again throughout the conference.
  2. Throughout the weekend the conference attendees were very gracious and game to be stretched a little with a couple of new songs and tunes (e.g. Thou Lovely Source, Psalm 130 – From the Depths of Woe, The Apostles’ Creed). Actually I was pleasantly surprised how easily they picked them up, with most people singing full volume by the end of each of those songs (You can see a full list of songs we sang together here). It seemed like new songs were easier to pick up when led sensitively (e.g. simplified as a tune, demonstrated by the vocalists, doubled on a melody instrument), and when the church was convinced/prepared to sing them (e.g. the story behind a song shared, or an explanation about the particular gospel truth a song helped us to consider).
  3. God’s providence was on display. Several times the LORD kindly connected songs we sang to things that were happening during and around the conference. Thabiti referenced “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” in his sermon, and we ended up singing the same song. Peter prayed passionately to God the day before same-sex “marriage” comes into effect, and we had a song like “We Belong to the Day” to respond with. There were many people struggling with fresh trials, and topics discussed like sexual abuse and youth suicide… and we were able to sing gospel hope with lines like “Our Shepherd Good and True is He who will at last His Israel free from all their sin and sorrow…” and songs like “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” and “I Asked the Lord“. It’s funny, we can be so busy putting together set lists, music parts and making plans, but I was reminded again that it’s the LORD who truly directed steps and made things connect richly.
  4. I appreciated Thabiti’s challenge during the Q&A session about ensuring that what musicians lead from the front enables and enhances the congregational singing, which should be the primary sound of a church singing. The consistent feedback from STAND 2012 was that we didn’t do well on this, so I’m so thankful that God continues to impress this principle on us and help us grow in this. Some ways we tried to encourage the congregational singing this year was to do things like inserting “voices only” sections when leading as a full contemporary band, leading a session with just male voices and organ, and thinking through the musical arrangements of our songs and shaping it with dynamic contrasts.
  5. Also, Thabiti’s suggestion of practising Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 by including times of singing to each other – actually turning from left to right to sing God’s marvellous truths to each other – was brilliant. I’m already thinking of how we could encourage HBC to grow in this area. Don’t be too freaked out the next time I’m standing next to you and singing to your face! 🙂

It’s easy and tempting to turn conference singing into times of showing off what we as worship leaders and musicians are capable of, or to frustrate people by forcing lots of new songs on them, or to be a lightning rod for musical style arguments. But I think what we tried to do — sing the gospel and its implications to the Lord and to each other, in a variety of musical styles — helped us to savour Christ crucified for our sins more, supported the message of 1 John (that we might be more sure of our salvation in Christ), and supported the preaching of God’s Word. And I pray that God used our sacrifice of praise, perfected only by Jesus Christ, to magnify His Name this weekend.



Web curations: Music-related (24 June)

Music Town


Andrew WK breaks the world record for longest drum session in a retail store – His facial expression in the article’s photo is priceless!

Spotify’s top anxiety-reducing tunes – Forget Philippians 4:6-8, here’s Spotify and anxiety psychologist Dr Becky Spelman’s 15-song playlist to calm the nerves (by being at 60 beats per minute, and “stimulating both sides of the brain”). Sure, listening to Adele could make you less anxious… unless you’re going through a breakup perhaps…

Why music makes your brain sing – Two neuroscientists share some of their insights into why music brings a unique pleasure to humans…

When pleasurable music is heard, dopamine is released in the striatum — an ancient part of the brain found in other vertebrates as well — which is known to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli like food and sex and which is artificially targeted by drugs like cocaine and amphetamine.

But what may be most interesting here is when this neurotransmitter is released: not only when the music rises to a peak emotional moment, but also several seconds before, during what we might call the anticipation phase.

The idea that reward is partly related to anticipation (or the prediction of a desired outcome) has a long history in neuroscience. Making good predictions about the outcome of one’s actions would seem to be essential in the context of survival, after all. And dopamine neurons, both in humans and other animals, play a role in recording which of our predictions turn out to be correct.

Singles define the modern music business – The album vs. singles argument used to dominate music industry discussions. But Jay Frank argues that in 2013, it’s pretty much singles that define today’s music business. He says:

The album still has a vital place in the overall diverse revenue stream for an artist. But its power has diminished so greatly that for most artists it is no longer relevant. When you look at usage patterns on radio, television, online and on portable devices, it’s clear that the pathway to the hearts, minds and wallets of music fans is thru the single.

Music, singing and emotions: what are the connections? – SMBC Lecturer Rob Smith has a very thorough paper published in Themelios, addressing the connections between music, singing and emotions. This is more a personal bookmark for me to read the entire article at some stage (Greg Strand sums it up here). I do like the concluding statement:

I think we can and must say this: if it is important enough to be said, then it could (and in the right manner, time and place should) also be sung. Why? Because singing helps us to process and express not only the cognitive dimensions of truth but also the emotive dimensions as well. Such are the God-ordained connections between music, singing and the emotions.


“Music has a secret and incredible power to move our hearts. When evil words are accompanied by music, they penetrate more deeply and the poison enters as wine through a funnel into a vat.”

– John Calvin