THE hymn-writing couple Keith and Kristyn Getty are marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by calling on Anglicans around the world to “rediscover the power” of congregational singing.
The couple have written or co-authored more than 70 hymns, and estimate that they have been sung by about 40 million churchgoers each year for the past two decades. Mr Getty, who began writing hymns in the millennium, is best-known for his first: “In Christ alone”, which he co-authored with Stuart Townend in 2001. He was awarded an OBE for services to music and modern hymn writing in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list (News, 23 June).
The endeavour has been inspired by the congregational singing, theology, and high artistic view of church music held by Martin Luther, Mr Getty says. “While Luther’s 95 theses of theology may have opened the floodgates for the Reformation, his insistence upon a return to, and celebration of the sacred act of congregational singing in the people’s known language, built the community apparatus that kept those floodgates open for years to come.”
The Gettys, who live in Northern Ireland and the United States, launched the initiative Sing!, and accompanying book, in September at a special (to be annual) music conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in anticipation of the Reformation celebrations.
The pair are currently leading a series of summits in cities across the US on the importance of congregational singing, and have relaunched their Christmas tour, Sing! An Irish Christmas, in venues including Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Centre in Washington. A show is also being screened on the US channel PBS during the Christmas season.
“We sing because we are commanded, created, and the good news of Jesus compels us to sing, and always has done,” Mr Getty said. “We talk about how singing affects us as individuals, families, churches, and communities. And of course, we want to help people to practise and lead congregational singing across the generations.”
How the congregations sing was a key question for Luther, he says. “Luther had come to realise what his ancient predecessors had always known: that God’s people are catechised by what they sing. A preacher can teach what the Bible means, but songs help people to remember and carry out their faith in the world by affecting their minds, emotions, hearts, memories, prayer — and ultimately, thoughts and words.”
Sing! is now available in most UK bookstores and at www.gettymusic.com.
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