Shine On

In my piece on Quentin Letts’s book “Fifty People who Buggered Up Britain”, I referred in passing to Graham Kendrick and his composition Shine Jesus Shine. OK, it isn’t the most exciting piece of Christian music ever written, in fact if I’m honest it’s pretty wet – which might explain why it’s hardly sung any more, being passed over in favour of modern songwriters like Matt Redman and Brenton Brown. Letts would have no truck with them either, blaming the “happy clappy” movement for all that’s wrong with the Church of England. I’ve always thought that bishops who don’t believe in the resurrection, priests who believe that children’s work has no place in the modern church, and priests who believe that children’s work is the only important thing in the modern church, have all contributed to the church’s problems, but Quentin Letts is entitled to his opinion.

Those who criticise modern church music say it’s all about people enjoying themselves, and what God wants to hear is the older stuff. Personally I think God’s iPod has got rather more gigabytes than mine, and if he wants to hear Our God Our Help in Ages Past in three-part harmony with full orchestration, he doesn’t have to wait for it to be sung on Earth – which is lucky, given that I only know of one place where the original is sung, most churches having rejected the original in favour of the bowdlerised “O God Our Help…”, a product of Victorian churchmen who thought “Our God” far too familiar.

Letts also criticises “modern language” (i.e. anything newer than 1611) in church services, saying “People don’t have to understand what they’re saying to be comforted by it” (I’m paraphrasing, I left the book at work, but that’s near enough). I don’t know about comfort – but “Amen” means “I agree” in any language, and I’d feel pretty darned uncomfortable saying that to God, about something I hadn’t understood.

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