Friday, June 15, 2018

50 years ago: United Church in Calgary experiments with modern music

Submitted for your approval, more evidence that not only are today's evangelicals tomorrow's liberals, but yesterday's liberals are today's evangelicals. Substitute the name of almost any "Evangelical" church for the United Church of Canada in the following article, and it would be true of 21st century Evangelicalism. Increasing worldliness in church music is part of generally declining standards of holiness.

A few things have changed in the 50 years since the following item appeared. The United Church of Canada was in the early years of its decline in prestige (membership peaked in 1965, the year after the news Sunday School curriculum was published, making the church's apostasy clear), but the mainline churches in Canada were still generally respected and influential. A United Church "couple" in ministry consisted of a husband, i.e., male, and his wife, i.e., female. The mainline churches hadn't yet gone full speed ahead into promotion of alphabet perversion, but once a church falls into apostasy, it drops into a bottomless abyss, and it will become ever more apostate until it either destroys itself or is destroyed by the Lord Jesus Christ in the brightness of His coming.

As reported by Edythe Humphrey in the Calgary Albertan, June 15, 1968:

Blues, brass and bongos may seem to most people alien in a church environment, but for a young Bowness United Church clergyman, they're part of his regular service of worship.

As a leader in church music experimentation, not only in Calgary, but across Canada, Rev. D.W. Hyde is in tune with the changes taking place in the church of today, and adding to the impetus with some innovations of his own.

He's not alone in his work, for while he possesses the musical training, his wife Marilyn has the enthusiasm and love for the experiment, and their growing congregation has the courage to accept the blues, jazz, guitars and drums they've introduced as a regular part of the service.

Other Calgary churches, too, such as Rev. Bob Wallace's Parkdale United, have adopted some of his arrangements.

And recognition has come to the young English-born minister and his wife from the national level, in the form of an invitation to the United Church's conference on evangelism, to be held at Whitby, Ont. Aug. 20 to 23.

The Hydes are the first to admit their adaptations are experimental. "Not everything we use is good, but we believe these things are being written and deserve to be heard."

The "things" they refer to are a wealth of new poetry and music by British writers Peter Firth, Geoffrey Beaumont and Patrick Appleford, as well as other composers.

This modern young couple, parents of two small children, contend the new theology is not a matter of choosing the old hymns and jazzing them up, however, but adopting an appreciation of those who are writing the new music and words which contain much less ecclesiastical language than before.

To illustrate, Rev. Hyde, at this point in a recent interview, turned to the piano in his living room and demonstrated with a blues version of Just As I Am. Though this particular hymn has been tried a couple of times at a workshop, it hasn't been used as yet in a service of worship.

But a lot of others have, most of them joyful. At a recent Easter service in their church, the Hydes said they sang Jesus Christ Is Risen, and they discovered to their great delight, that the congregation responded enthusiastically to the light, happy approach, regarding it as an apt expression of the season.

Many old hymns advise people to escape from the world and seek their own spiritual satisfaction. But the church's modern day approach is one of going out into the world and facing the social problems and challenges, and the Hydes are convinced this is what the music, too, must emphasize.

It's no wonder attendance dwindles in churches where people are expected to sing outmoded hymns, they argue. It's condescending, self-centred attitudes that are a major cause of loss of interest, confusion and apathy in the church, and not the experiments and changes people are trying.

Though some of the things they try will be discarded, something of value is bound to emerge, they believe, and by bringing the new approach into the church, they see a narrowing of the gap between holy and secular.

Theirs is a wide-open approach in which they believe all available tools ought to be used to express today's faith. "Not too long ago, the organ was considered an abomination to the Lord" by many churchgoers, but now it is the accepted instrument in the most conservative of cathedrals, the Hydes point out, so why should people balk at the use of the guitar, drums and other instruments.

At a recent service, a brass fanfare was employed as the call to worship. Guitars are often used, and the junior choir has used flute accompaniment.

While Rev. Hyde is keen on experimentation in church music, and his wife is equally enthusiastic, their daily life is no different than that of any other young couple whose experience is similarly church oriented.

The young clergyman has found, however, that experimentation in church music has forced changes on the rest of the service as well. They occur almost on a Sunday-to-Sunday basis. A good example is the takeover by the Senior Hi-C of the entire ushering duties of the congregation.

"But it's not a case of pushing the older ones out. On the contrary, the older members seem proud and pleased at the interest of the younger generation," he says.

His congregation is approaching a 50-50 division in percentage of youth and middle-age, and no one knows at this point what the future may bring. It may require separate services to satisfy both tastes, or it may mean a skilful blending of half mod and half traditional music in each service.

So far, Rev. Hyde says acceptance has been encouraging, as evidenced in the enthusiasm of an elderly woman who maintained "this new idea of singing the blues away makes a person forget their troubles for a while."

Instead of sermons, they've experimented with discussion groups, and Rev. Hyde frankly admits at first he felt "quite threatened" but he has since discovered that out of each panel has come something of value.

The first discussion, on the role of the church and the new evangelism, received such a response from the congregation that it led to a second, on theology and the new morality. New plans are underway for a third, also on the new morality.

The Hydes, with Karen, now 4, and David, 2, came to Calgary less than a year ago, with no preconceived notions of what would happen. Rev. Hyde received his arts degree with a music major from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, after coming to Canada from England in 1957, then studied theology at St. Andrew's College in Saskatoon and graduated from Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax in 1963. They came to Calgary in September, 1967 from Aneroid, his first charge.

During the years in Saskatchewan, their interest in new church music evolved gradually. The new folk masses, sessions at the Prairie Christian Training Institute, camp musical programs, all had their influence, so by the time they arrived at Bowness, a pattern was evolving.

Whether those who are involved in their experiment heartily endorse the idea, reserve judgment or feel somewhat critical, they find it impossible to deny that the atmosphere their new music creates is lively and thought-provoking. And the Hydes are determined to make it more so.
See my post 50 years ago: United Church of Canada unveils Sunday School curriculum denying the truth of the Bible (August 1, 2014)

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