Craft of writing hymn texts

Many in the late 20th- and early 21st-century church music community have been guided by Erik Routley*’s summary of what constitutes a good hymn, i.e., one which is ‘well written, well chosen and well sung (1959, p. 299). As compelling and compact as this definition is, when it is quoted outside of Routley’s expansive view of the purpose and nature of hymnody, it can become a convenient way to canonize the personal aesthetic of the one employing the quotation. What is ‘good’ can be easily reduced to ‘what I like’ or ‘what I find respectable.’ It is, therefore, a perilous business to define the goal of the craft of writing hymn texts as nothing more than producing a ‘good hymn’. In the end,...

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