“This is our experience in worship,” Jars’ front man Dan Haseltine explains. “This album represents songs important to the way the gospel is moving and shaping us.”

Guitarist Matt Odmark agrees. “One reason I feel really connected to hymns is that I feel they are written for basically good people who need a way to express how much they love God,” he says. “That’s me — people who have limped into church knowing they really don’t deserve much from God.”

The image we kept tossing around while making the record was the idea of roots and wings,” keyboardist Charlie Lowell says, “digging into what’s gone before us and giving flight to these words through new melodies.” This generation of college students is looking for experiences that actually connect with the heart and soul and the [core] of what true faith is, what the gospel really means and how it gets played out in our lives,” Haseltine says. Hymns step up to that challenge.

"Redemption Songs" is signature Jars of Clay and includes both familiar titles (“It Is Well With My Soul,” “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”) and the uncommon ones, mined from hymnbooks (“Hiding Place, ”O Come and Mourn With Me Awhile”). Its theme points decidedly toward restoration through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Says guitarist Steve Mason, “We wanted to serve well the people that enjoy what we do already, but, as well, we wanted to be a bridge, turning people on to this art who maybe weren’t familiar with it or thought it was for people with gray or blue hair.”

“With these hymns, it’s not that we’ve discovered a lost book of the Bible or that there is hidden truth that couldn’t be seen the first time,” Odmark says. “But we are constantly in need of having our eyes opened to these things that have been true all along, and hymns do that.”

Inspired by a poem, hymn writer Paul Gerhardt wrote, “What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend?”

Indeed, how do we find words to express our great joy? Or expressions that kick at the darkness of uncertainty and despair? Hymns, like Psalms, give us words we cannot find on our own. And in times of war or in times of peace, we lean on hymns like theological poetry, allowing us to sit steadily and with hope in the mystery of all that might come our way.

O for a Thousand Tongues

Here’s a partial list of recent and soon-to-release projects spotlighting hymns. Below, a reminder of hymns records aging well.

Beth Nielsen Chapman, "Hymns" — a hit songwriter, Chapman recreates Latin liturgical music from her childhood (BNC)

Ashley Cleveland, "Men and Angels Say" — Steve Winwood guests on “I Need Thee Every Hour” (Rambler)

Amy Grant, currently untitled — more personal favorites, including a new version of “El Shaddai” (Word)

Buddy Green, "Hymns & Prayer Songs" — features his signature folk style with guitar and harmonica backing his vocals (Spring Hill)

Jars of Clay, "Redemption Songs: A Collection of Reinvented Ancient Hymns and Spiritual Songs" — guests include the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama and Grammy-nominated new artist Sarah Kelly (Essential)

Bart Millard, "Hymned" — the solo debut from MercyMe’s lead singer (INO)

Donnie McClurkin, "Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs" — the CD/DVD set captures a rousing blend of high church and praise & worship (Verity)

Out of Eden, "Hymns" — includes a duet with Tree63’s John Ellis (Gotee)

Jill Phillips, "Kingdom Come" (Fervent/Munce) — available exclusively in Munce stores nationwide, guests include Andrew Peterson, Christine Denté, Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken