- Hymns and other music have been integral to shaping and expressing the beliefs and practices of Protestantism. For Protestants, hymns took the place of important parts of the Roman Catholic liturgy. Simplified Protestant worship, lacking the ritual drama of the Mass, was energized by music; it became one of Protestantism's defining elements within the larger Christian community.Protestant hymnody begins with Martin Luther, author of "A Mighty Fortress is our God," the anthem of the Reformation that was sung as the Protestant princes presented their affirmation of faith at the 1529 Diet of Speyer. Luther advocated the writing of many hymns; they could be learned by the masses as a tool for spreading and establishing Protestantism. Over a dozen hymnals were published in Germany by 1550, and Lutheran parishes gradually accustomed themselves to congregational singing. Congregational singing in the Lutheran Church, which declined along with the early enthusiasm, was revived by the Pietists toward the end of the 17th century. Pietism extolled singing as an essential part of personal devotion.Meanwhile, among French-speaking Protestants, the singing of Psalms set to contemporary music emerged as the dominant musical practice. John Calvin advocated modest, simple church singing without instrumental accompaniment. This perspective, embodied in the Geneva Psalter of 1562, was passed to Geneva's English Protestant refugees; when they returned to England after the death of Mary I, they established psalmody as the dominant form of music among the Elizabethan Puritans.Radical reformers also developed an extensive hymnody. They included metrically arranged Psalms, as well as many hymns that embodied their particular beliefs and referred to their ever-present persecution and martyrdom. The primary collection of hymns, the Ausbund, was published around 1565.The Moravian Church, an independent pre-Reformation Protestant group, published its first hymnal in 1501. Its leader in the early 18th century, Count Nicolas von Zinzendorf (1700-60), himself authored some 2,000 hymns, many of which were included in the Moravians 1736 hymnal, a massive volume with 999 songs.British hymnody experienced a watershed with the career of Isaac Watts (1674-1748), a Puritan who challenged the dominance of Psalm singing by arguing that the church's music should more directly reflect its New Testament message. His first volume of Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707 proved very popular; such songs as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" are still often sung in Protestant circles. Some of his more popular new hymns were directly based on the Psalms, including "Joy to the World" (Ps. 98) and "Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past" (Ps. 90). Watts also wrote the first Protestant children's songbook.Methodist hymnody begins with the encounter of John Wesley (1703-91) with Moravian hymns on his voyage to Georgia in 1735. He began to learn German in order to understand and translate them into English. Wesley himself wrote a few hymns for his first hymnal, published in South Carolina in 1737. It included some hymns of Watts, some translations from the German, and Wesley's own songs, the first Christian hymns to be penned on American soil.As the Wesleyan movement grew in England, a new hymnody, largely the product of John's brother, Charles Wesley (1707-88), defined the movement. During John's life, more than 50 hymn collections were published to serve the needs of the rapidly expanding movement. Among Charles's 6,500 hymns are the still-popular "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Love Divine, All Love's Excelling," and "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing."The Wesleyan hymns contrasted the songs written for congregational singing and indoctrination with the great church music that was pouring from the organs and choirs of the leading churches of the European urban centers. Musicians of every generation, a prime example being Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), composed music to be performed rather than sung; such music always competed for attention with congregational singing in the Lutheran and Anglican churches.The first hymnal in America, the Bay Psalm Book, was published by the Massachusetts Puritans. Wesleyan-style music spread in the 18th century, initially through the efforts of George Whitefield (1714-70). Though he broke with Wesley over the issue of free grace, Whitefield heartily approved of Wesley's hymnody and freely borrowed from Charles's hymns (which he changed to conform to his own theology). His major hymnal was published in 1753 as Hymns for Social Worship. The singing of hymns apart from the Psalms would be a factor in the split of the Presbyterians in the 1740s into Old School and New School factions.The hymns of Watts, the Wesleys, and White-field reached into the African-American community as well. There, especially among the slaves, a new hymnology emerged that would give rise to African-American gospel music.Wesleyan hymn singing became institutionalized in the frontier camp meetings. People such as Bostonian Lowell Mason (1792-1872) were encouraged to begin schools to improve the quality of congregational music. Musical training became part of the revival movement, especially the new urban revivalism of the post-civil War era.The last decades of the 19th century saw the rise of a new hymnody, characterized by a somewhat repetitive restatement of basic Protestant affirmations, ease of singing, and a sentimental emotional content. These new hymns became known as "gospel songs," a reference to Philip P Bliss's 1874 volume, Gospel Songs. The last quarter of the century was marked by the emergence of great evangelical musician/evangelist teams, most notably Ira Sankey (1840-1908) and Dwight L. Moody, and the spread of gospel songs through the revivals and the emerging Sunday schools movement.The 1831 copyright law gave the new music publishing houses a stake in securing popular hymn writers. Fannie Crosby, the most popular hymn writer of the period, was under contract to the Biglow & Main Company Philip P Bliss (1838-76) worked for Root and Candy and later the John Church Company These companies had a stake in the regular introduction of new hymns; new songbooks gave rise to special musical events within the revival campaigns. Singing conventions emerged, where the new gospel songbooks were distributed and the latest songs introduced.The rise of popular gospel songs created a problem for denominations. They could not pay the royalties demanded by the publishing houses to include the gospel hymns in their denominational hymnals. Beginning in the late l9th century, many local churches supplemented their denominational songbook with a gospel hymnal as a means of accessing the new music.As Protestantism spread around the world, the religious music of Europe and North America spread with it, through denominational hymnals and gospel songbooks. The songs were often translated. More recently, they have served as the base for various national Protestant hymnologies.In the 20th century, church music continued to thrive. Though the most popular hymns are usually associated with the more conservative and evangelistic churches, the liberal movements produced music that emphasized their own concerns for building the kingdom of God through the Social Gospel, a global perspective, and modernist theology. Some of the most well-known liberal Protestant hymns are: "O Master, let me walk with Thee" (Washington Gladden); "God of Grace and God of Glory" (Harry Emerson Fosdick); "This is my Father's world" (Maltbie D. Babcock); "Where cross the crowded ways of life" (Frank M. North); "Joyful, joyful we adore thee" (Henry van Dyke); "Rise up, O men of God" (William P Merrill); and "O God of every nation" (William W. Reid Jr.).one 20th century trend was the professional-ization of gospel music.The singing conventions gave way to gospel singing events featuring quartets, family groups, and soloists. These groups became even more important with the rise of religious broadcasting on radio and television. Early singing stars such as the Stamps Quartet gave way to such groups as the Blackwood Brothers and Hovie Lister and the Statemen Quartet after World War II.By the end of the 20th century, a Christian music industry had developed around a set of superstars whose fans followed their careers like their secular counterparts. Included among the outstanding contemporary stars are Bill and Gloria Gaither, Keith Green, Amy Grant, and Kirk Franklin. Christian musical artists have adopted every form of music from bluegrass to rock and rap.The communities created by the Charismatic movement also produced a new hymnody, associated with such organizations as the Association of vineyard Churches (and the associated vineyard Music USA) and Integrity Incorporated. This music, with its emphasis on praise and worship, spread far beyond Charismatic circles into the large denominations by the start of the 21st century.Further reading:■ Robert Anderson and Gail North, Gospel Music Encyclopedia (New York: Sterling Publishing, 1979)■ Millar Patrick, The Story of the Church's Song, rev. ed. by James Rawlings Sydnor (Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1962)■ William Jensen Reynolds and Milburn Price, A Survey of Christian Hymnody (Carol Stream, Ill.: Hope Publishing, 1987)■ Erik Routley, The Music of Christian Hymnody (London: Independent Press, 1957)■ W. J. Limmer Sheppard, Great Hymns & Their Stories (Fort Washington, Pa.: Christian Literature Crusade, 1979).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.