Here's the other experience from the weekend that left me pondering the passage of time and the previous generations: the choir concert/hymn sing that I participated in Sunday afternoon.
The premise of the concert was to present different styles of hymns in chronological order. Our director is a renowned choral conductor and professor at the University of Houston and he did a wonderful job of selecting hymns from medieval chants through modern hymns. We did old English hymns, gospel hymns, spirituals, ethnic hymns, you-name-it. And the concert was interactive--the congregation sang most of them with us.
As I looked out over the audience from the choir loft I saw mostly grey and white hair. Many were quite elderly, leaning on walkers or being assisted to their seats. But they sang out with great feeling and you could see the joy on their faces when they did. I'm sure many of them, like me, had fond memories of singing these hymns in other churches, with loved ones since departed for the church triumphant, a long time ago.
A feature of the concert was a section where we all sang together hymns selected by vote of the church congregation. Surprisingly, the most requested hymn was the Navy Hymn--Eternal Father Strong to Save. Were there a lot of former navy men in the congregation or did a couple of them stuff the ballot box? I don't know, but it certainly brought back memories of my father and uncles--especially my Uncle Wendell because we sang this hymn at his memorial service a few short years ago.
Here's what made me sad: the realization that in 20 years or so a concert/hymn sing like this will probably not fill the sanctuary again. Many in my own generation and certainly in the generations that follow me in the church do not identify and love these hymns because they don't sing them. So the fond memories I have that make them more meaningful to me would not be there for them.
As this concert demonstrated, hymn styles change and evolve over time. I'm not a fan of praise music but appreciate that it speaks to many people today. I wonder whether in 20 years a crowd will gather for a retrospective praise song fest and if so, will those in attendance fondly remember past times they sang "Awesome God" or "I Love You Lord" ? Or will the popular praise songs of today be wholly replaced by something completely different? What do you think?