It’s summer – and I’ve more time than usual to listen to music.

I thought I’d share a few songs of praise that have been moving me lately.

They’re not necessarily that new (some are ancient, others are over a decade old – heck, I like to let things settle to see if they resonate beyond a few months).

I know that modern praise music can be looked down on by certain folks – and I get the arguments why.  But I think that things have developed a lot since the stereotype of this music got set (mostly from the 1980’s I think) and I think there’s something to this genre of music  which is sonically diverse, lyrically thoughtful and, above all filled with mystical praise to God

In the case of these selections, my sense is that there’s something enduring in their spiritual and ecclesial value and their sound.

So, here are some picks – in no  particular order:

* Almighty God – All Sons and Daughters. Loosely based on the Collect for Purity from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, this folksy Nashville version takes some poetic license, but brings a heartfelt edge to this ancient prayer.

* Almighty God – Steve Bell.  This is part of Canadian Steve Bell’s  Devotion album – which features songs from St. Benedict’s Table – an Anglican Church of Canada Church plant in Winnipeg.  Arguably a more faithful (or at least verbatim) rendition of the BCP prayer than All Sons and Daughters.  We’ve done this song as bluegrass at the Bluegrass Mass at St. Philip.   I remember having lunch with Steve in Ottawa years ago when he was working on this album and he called the album Taize meets Bayou music.  Not a bad description.

* Come Holy Ghost – Church of the Beloved.  Across the water from us here is a Lutheran Church plant called Church of the Beloved.  In good Lutheran fashion, they’ve re-worked one of Martin Luther’s old hymns into this singable, intuitive piece (which even my kids love – I wrote a piece about this earlier on my blog.).  I have to admit that the ‘Ghost’ language, though not in fashion in much of the church, invokes and awakens something to me that gets lost in the exclusive use of ‘Spirit’.  I also think their In Nomine Patri is well worth a listen.  By the way their albums are downloadable for free/by donation.

* Trisagion – Roots Worship Collective (Fernando Ortega).  Rumour has it that Fernando Ortega has recently converted to Anglicanism and is working on a number of settings from the Book of Common Prayer.  His earlier take on this ancient Orthodox liturgical hymn (also included in many Anglican liturgies) takes on a great yet simple sonic resonance – especially in the hands of the Roots Worship Collective.  Have used it at St. Philip and Emmaus and hope to use it at the Abbey when we launch in the Autumn.

* Apostles’ Creed – Aaron Spiro.  In the past few years I’ve felt more and more drawn to the Creeds of the Church.  There is something about singing this shared formulaic cosmic story recited and sung over thousands of years that appeals in an age where everything is so radically individual, disposable, shifting and up for grabs.  I’ve been working on a setting based on Spiro’s melody.

* Creed – Rich Mullins.  Growing up in the evangelical/charismatic Church, creeds were looked at with hostile Papist suspicion; an unnecessary addition to Biblical ‘orthodoxy’ at best.  It was Mullins’ Creed (and John Michael Talbot’s very different take as well), which introduced me in my teens to the notion that there was such a thing as a Creed .  Mullins was a radical evangelical; he refused to make more income than the average worker in the USA and gave the rest away, started a small Franciscan group, refused to play at a church that had a US flag out front because of the state genocide of American Indians, and eventually fled Nashville to a Navajo Reservation to hang out with First Nation Youth before a too early death.  Mullins’ version includes a refrain based on Chesterton’s “I did not make it, but it is making me” which may sound too protestant-individualist for some – but I think is worth a listen through the Chestertonian lens.  Check out the film Ragamuffin based on Mullins’ life.  Though not without its occasional cliche, it’s quite well done.

* Multiplied – NeedToBreathe.  Alicia Kear introduced this to us on last year’s youth retreat.  I think it’s good, joyful, unadulterated worship praising God.

* My Lighthouse – Rend Collective.  Similar to what I’ve said above re: Multipled.  Belfast has given us some good worship music from the Revival in Belfast series which got going in the late 1990’s.  Here comes the next generation…  Long live hipster praise.

* Now and At the Hour Of Our Death – The Brilliance.  One of the few evangelical praise songs which takes on a powerful traditional Marian motif (which ultimately climaxes in Christocentric devotion).

* Zion and Babylon – Josh Garrels.  A compelling political (?!) praise song out there describing the malaise of North America and hope in Christ Jesus of another way.

* Gungor – Beautiful Things. This reflective hipster praise piece should become an Ash Wednesday classic in my estimation.

* Joyous Light – Chris Tomlin. This forgotten gem from Chris Tomlin takes on the (likely) first or second century hymn literally translated as ‘hilarious light’.  It’s tough to even find a version of it on the internet other than a few covers.  There’s a short clip here.  We sing a modified, acoustic version of this with Emmaus Community at many of our evening prayer/Complines.  I fell it has some tonal overlaps with plainsong.

* Without A Map – Marketa Irglova.  OK, it’s not exactly a praise song, but the lyrics and the compelling climactic inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer by the former Swell Season singer-songwriter is a beautiful piece of worship in my humble estimation.

What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Have others to add to the list?  Please do comment!