We are singing through the service this Sunday. I spent a few weeks collecting lists of people's favourite hymns. They range from "As the Deer" to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". It is always a fascinating exercise for me to wander through the hymns that the congregation choose as their favourite.
The hymns we will be singing range from lyrical melodies to the tunes that we think of as hymn tunes, but were the bar tunes of the day. The words express a wide range of understanding of who we are in relation to God.
This exercise of singing through Sunday reminds me of a discussion about tradition I was part of at a recent course. The people in the churches think of hymns as "traditional" particularly if they were written pre-1920. Folks like singing the traditional hymns even as they struggle with their political correctness conscience. The contemporary hymns are a challenge with tunes that aren't always easy to sing and words that strive for unfamiliar concepts.
Yet neither the old hymns or the new are traditional in the sense of being part of Wesley's quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Revelation. The tradition here has less to do with the exact words or hymns we sing than the fact that from the days of Moses the people have sung to God.
So it is so much about what we sing as to whom we sing our songs. As long as we sing to God's glory, the hymns we sing are part of a grand tradition, even if it is the first time we sing that hymn.