Great article here from the noted historian Mark Noll on the history of American Hymnody. Says Noll:
In New England, the progress of evangelical revival, especially as recorded in the defining accounts of Jonathan Edwards, was also a progress in song. Edwards was an early, if moderate, supporter of the reforms that from the early 1720s were replacing New England’s “Rsual” singing (psalms lined out and sung haphazardly with great local variation) with “Regular” singing (psalms and even hymns sung in harmony, sometimes with musical accompaniment). In his earliest account from May 1735 of the awakening that had begun in his Northampton, Massachusetts, parish late the previous year, Edwards reported that “no part of public worship has commonly [had] such an effect on [the people] as singing God’s praises.”
Check out the rest of this brief article at Worship Leader Magazine.
If you think that the “Worship Wars” are something new, think again. At one time in history the “old hymns” were new. They were also new and threatening to the traditions of the established church. Regarding the controversial nature of these “new” songs Noll states:
The hymnody of the evangelical revivals did, in fact, innovate in other matters also. Not surprisingly, innovation in metaphor, meter, and psychological fire encountered stiff opposition, some for scriptural reasons, some out of class resentment, and some because of what was perceived to be unacceptable style.
I’m pretty sure there’s something here for us all to learn . . .