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Book: Gather into One: Praying and Singing Globally

C. Michael Hawn. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 328 pp. $28.00. www.eerdmans.com.

Michael Hawn has given a great gift to North American worship leaders and congregations by providing a firsthand introduction to the most significant international leaders in congregational song today. The conversation on p. 26 offers a glimpse into the relationship between worship and justice in places beyond North America. Hawn has devoted chapters to each of those people and to others:

  • The Fiesta of the Faithful: Pablo Sosa and the Contextualization of Latin American Hymnody
  • Sounds of Bamboo: I-to Loh and the Development of Asian Hymns
  • Singing Freedom: David Dargie and South African Liberation Song
  • The Spirit of Ngoma: Patrick Matsikenyiri and Indigenous Song in Zimbabwe
  • The Wild Goose Songs: John Bell and the Music of the Iona Community

On one level, this book is a fascinating travelogue and sociological study; the stories draw readers in. But Hawn has a much deeper goal here: to celebrate the unity of the body of Christ through the diversity of musical gifts offered in worship around the world. He explores songs from different contexts in order to sing and pray for the sake of the world.

Hymnals are increasingly including songs from around the world that more and more churches are singing with joy and appreciation. Hawn has provided a resource that will both equip and encourage churches to sing these songs with greater understanding, from the standpoint of both musical language and cultural background. Hawn is a patient learner who traveled and spent considerable time with each of these people in their homelands. He models the kind of humility that has made him such an important teacher and advocate of global song.

This book challenges church musicians to become “enliveners” who together work toward the unity of the body of Christ; the work of Mary Oyer is presented as a model for other enliveners to follow.

If your church has been blessed by singing some of the beautiful and powerful songs that have come around the world, you will be blessed again by learning the contexts that gave rise to these songs. And if your congregation has not yet tasted the wonderful gifts of song from around the world, this book will whet your appetite.