About three years ago we started at Paignton Parish Church what we call The Alternative Service. It is always a Mass, accompanied by a music group and singing contemporary ‘worship songs’. During those three years I have learnt, and indeed have come to love, many of the songs that we sing. I look forward to the Alternative Service every week, with its opportunity to sing these songs, and to see people, old and young, swaying and tapping to the music.
At this year’s Chrism Mass during communion I reflected once again on the obvious lack of a particular theology in such worship songs. We sang ‘And now, O Father, mindful of the love’; ‘Sweet Sacrament divine’; and ‘Once, only one, and once for all’. These communion hymns – and others such as ’Now, my tongue the mystery telling’, ‘Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee’, ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’, ‘O thou who at thy Eucharist didst pray’, ‘We hail thy presence glorious’, ‘Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face’, ‘Wherefore, O Father, we thy humble servants’, all from Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised Standard – set forth again and again the catholic doctrines of the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
The worship songs that we sing are almost entirely from an Evangelical stable. No problem, most of the time. But it would be really good if catholic hymn writers, poets, even worship song writers, could provide us with the modern equivalent of those hymns I have listed above, which set out simply and clearly the catholic doctrines of the Eucharist.
And what about Marian songs, songs to and about the saints, songs for the departed and requiem masses, songs for Benediction? The list is long.
It may well be that there are plenty of such worship songs already out there, doing just what I have asked for. If there are, please would someone let me know! And if there aren’t – or even if there are – can we persuade Catholics to get down to the task of producing such songs – words and music – which would so enhance our catholic, eucharistic worship?