What do you think about writing new, relevant lyrics to older hymns? Do you suggest using the new verse(s) with the old ones?
Actually, I like this idea. Here’s why. Many older hymns, especially those with numerous verses, begin by heading in a very specific direction. However, by the time the song is over, we have often sung about the entire gamut of Christian theology. In general, I prefer to stay more focused. Because of this, I frequently use the first one to three verses and then add a summarizing verse to maintain the focus. Let me give you an example or two.
I really like the hymn, Amazing Grace, but after the first few verses, it loses the focus about God’s grace. So I wrote a fourth verse:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
His love poured forth for me.
His grace enslaved me to His throne
and grace has set me free.
(©1990 Tom Kraeuter. ARR UBP)
These words not only fit the feel of the song, but they maintain the theme. Additionally, after having just sung the first three verses, even people who have never heard this fourth verse can readily sing it.
Another song to which I added a verse is The Church’s One Foundation. The first two verses talk about the unity of the Church. Admittedly, I did update some of the language in the first two verses and changed the pronouns from “her” (referring to the Church) to “our” or “us.” Then I added this third verse.
We’re being built together by God’s own faithful hand.
He’s making us His temple and by His grace we’ll stand.
Our Lord prayed we would come to that perfect unity,
and we pray now, “O Father, let us be one in Thee.”
(©1998 Tom Kraeuter. ARR UBP)
Again, these words help keep the focus of the first couple verses intact.
This can be a helpful tool, especially in congregations that have a rich heritage in hymns. You’re not throwing them away, but instead using them in a way that helps people to stay focused.
If you are not gifted with words, perhaps someone else in your church might be. If you have an idea, you could potentially collaborate with someone else, writing a specific verse for your congregation.