Carrie Underwood earned her fifth number one rating on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart this week with her new album, My Savior, which was released on March 26. The album is also number one on the Top Christian Albums and Top Country Albums charts.
When I read about the planned release of her album, I was excited.
It is comprised of gospel hymns she grew up singing as a member of a small country church in Oklahoma in the early 1990s.
I also attended a small country church while growing up, and the album includes familiar favorites I remember singing in that old church.
I still remember all the words today.
Underwood described how much the classic songs mean to her in a recent interview.
“When I made this album, I’m performing for an audience of one. I’m gonna cry talking about it, but . . . The whole time I was in the studio, any time I get to sing these songs, I close my eyes and I’m the only person in the room. It’s my heart for God. And I love that. It is a different feeling. It’s happy and it’s deep. And I feel like I’m making my relationship better and deeper with God when I’m singing these songs. So they’re just so important for my heart,” she said.
Underwood said it’s hard to find churches that sing the old hymns now. “There’s so much incredible worship music that’s out there right now, and a lot of churches kind of go for those big worship songs. Every once in a while, they’ll work in an old hymn or a chorus of one, and it just feels so good. So I also feel like, in making this album, we’re kind of introducing some of these very old hymns to a new generation.”
I am glad she did.
Hymns “have a place in church history”
Music as a means of worship goes back to biblical days.
The Apostle Paul told early Christians to speak to one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).
The old hymns of the faith have a place in church history.
The word hymn comes from the Greek word hymnos, which means song of praise.
Isaac Watts, who created many of the old hymns, believed that “hymns should express the religious feelings of the people” and has been described as the “liberator of English hymnody.” His hymns moved people away from simply singing psalms, inspiring people to sing from the heart with great faith and understanding.
And that is what Underwood discovered, as she pointed out in her interview: “I feel like I’m making my relationship better and deeper with God when I’m singing these songs. So they’re just so important for my heart.”
And the stories behind many of the hymns show that was true for the writers as well.
The history of the songs often shows a personal faith that was embraced by the writers during difficulties and suffering.
Their words display a deep devotion and surrender to God.
We learned theology from them.
I read the stories behind the classics included on the album, and am including a few here.
Stories of the faith
Sisters Susan and Anna Warner became writers at a young age when their family fell on hard times.
Susan wrote a book that included the account of a dying boy and asked her sister Anna to come up with words of encouragement she would tell the boy.
The result was the original words to “Jesus Loves Me.”
The sisters also hosted Bible studies for West Point cadets in their home in the mid-1800s.
After Susan died, Anna continued teaching until her death in 1915. That year’s graduates, known as the “class the stars fell on,” included General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a pupil of the Warner sisters.
The two women were buried alongside war heroes at the West Point Cemetery to demonstrate how much they meant to the cadets.
Fanny Crosby is perhaps the best-known hymn writer, penning eight thousand gospel songs during her ninety-five years. The most remarkable part of her story is that she spent all but the first six weeks of her life in blindness. At the age of nine, she wrote the following, which gives insight into her strong faith:
O what a happy soul am I,
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.
One of the hymns she wrote is “Blessed Assurance,” which is also on Underwood’s album.
“Great is Thy Faithfulness” was written by a Methodist minister who suffered from ill health for most of his adult life.
His inspiration for the song came from Scripture: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23).
The familiar Easter song, “The Old Rugged Cross,” was written by a traveling evangelist after being heckled at a revival meeting.
Worship music is pleasing to God, whether it is the old classics or the newer contemporary songs:
- “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting” (Psalm 147:1).
- “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
- And my favorite psalm: “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:1–3).
The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen new styles of worship emerge in the form of contemporary and praise music and worship bands. And the old hymns still appear with new tunes.
It warms my heart to see they are still being remembered and making an impact today.