Modern hymnody


Some thirty years ago church music within churches with a liturgical/devotional service structure, was changed forever as the Charismatic movement touched mainline denominations. Initially Scripture in Song, much of which derived from New Zealand, began to replace hymns and this in turn spawned a new breed of church music. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches continued to develop performance style church music suitable for large congregations, led by singers and band. Hillsong is the latest form to come out of this tradition in Australia. Some of this music was adopted by the small Parish church through such hymn books as "Scripture in Song", volumes 1, 2, 3, initially finding a place in the music tradition of the church through the evening youth service. New composers such as Graham Kendrick, further developed this style to suit the small local congregation.

Although this style of church music is now dominant, replacing the hymnody tradition of the majority of mainline denominational churches, there was an attempt by some church musicians and composers to retain a hymnody tradition, add to that tradition and counterbalance it with music that reflected the community nature of the small local congregation. Betty Polkingham and the Covenant Community are best known for their work in this area, using a folk style to support traditional church music. Her Mass/Eucharish/Holy Communion setting "El Shaddai" is still one of the better settings suitable for a small congregation wishing to retain a liturgical/devotional/reflective/folk, rather than celebratory, form of worship.

Hymnody is certainly in a period of flux and it will be interesting to see if traditional hymn writing and singing maintains a hold in the face of the increasingly dominant pop performance style of church music.