I had the opportunity to lead the singing yesterday at PRBI's 75th anniversary celebration. As I expected, the vast majority of the heads in the crowd were white or gray; people to whom PRBI's influence has meant a lot in their lives, and are free to travel to such an event.
I have noticed a phenomenon with regard to congregational singing. If you are doing the music for a conference, and you want the audience to sing poorly, do new songs, or do contemporary worship songs. If you want them to sing heartily, do hymns. Especially if there are white heads in the crowd.
We did a number of hymns on powerpoint, like Holy, Holy, Holy, And Can It Be, Day By Day, Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and about 10 more, all done in the original hymn style with no modern updating, singing all the verses, accompanied by my daughter Timbrel on piano and myself on the guitar. The only thing I did that was new to these people was that I substituted Christ Shall Have Dominion (from Ps.72) for Onward Christian Soldiers. And all these old pre-mil dispensationalist folk sang it with delight.
I heard many comments afterward about how good it was to sing good hymns together, and that the singing was wonderful. "I love singing these hymns, because you can do the harmonies!" one lady told me. "I knew ALL the songs!" said another. "I liked your selection, you picked all good ones!" said one man.
A 60ish lady told me of attending the 85th Anniversary for PBI, where the singing was led by some son of Three Hills who had made it big in music, and who did all his own songs for congregational singing. Of course, hardly anybody knew them, so the congregational singing was very poor, and the lady was somewhat disgusted. But she was delighted by our singing last night.
The only comment I heard about the song selection which was not good was from the young (maybe early 20's?)lady who ran the powerpoint. The program was going a bit long, so I needed to cut one song, During a break I went back and told her which one to cut. She sort of winced, and said "but that was the only one I know..."
There are some serious problems in the evangelical churches in this part of the world, and I am poking at the edges of one of them here. I hope to write more later about this.