Our culture is obsessed with musical superstars. We see American Idols high and lifted up as the pinnacle of vocal prowess. The commercial music industry has furthered the idea that those who can truly sing should be rewarded with recording contracts, while others are better off sitting and being spectators. Those who love to sing but feel they are lacking in talent will relegate themselves to singing along with the radio, or only sharing their voices with an audience of shampoo and conditioner bottles.
Found this great article the other day that talks about one of the huge things I like hymns: they aren’t riffed or ad-libbed, which means everyone knows what they are supposed to be singing and when and are therefore able to more fully participate. Hymns are far less repetitive, and the lyrics are usually much more interesting and thoughtful to sing. Plus, the lyrics return to you in times of struggle or rejoicing, and you have a way to express through song thoughts or emotions that are often otherwise inexpressible or very difficult to articulate. Hymns gift you a beautifully complex language of worship.
Even in churches that only sing hymns occasionally, those seem to be the songs that get the most congregational (*not* audience) participation. Non-dirge, updated arrangements that still manage to retain the melody are showing up more and more, and the Gettys exist. I hope this means a church music renaissance is on the way.