For nearly a decade, Irish hymn writer Kristyn Getty and her husband, Keith, have created a collection of worship music for churches to sing every Sunday. Since Keith joined with songwriting partner Stuart Townend to write "In Christ Alone" and "Power of the Cross," the Gettys began a journey of creating music they'd like to sing in church, and soon were described as pioneers of the modern hymn movement. Among other new hymns, Kristyn recently penned the lyrics to the celebrated children's Christmas carol, "Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven" and the tender lullaby, "A Mother's Prayer," a track on the Gettys' latest album, Hymns for the Christian Life.
Kristyn and her husband grew up in Northern Ireland and moved to the States seven years ago shortly after getting married. Since then they've shared their music at venues as diverse as the Dove Awards, The Third Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization, London 's Royal Albert Hall, and the Grand Ole Opry. They now live in Nashville with their two-year-old daughter, Eliza.
TCW asked Kristyn, 32, to describe their vision for creating music for the church, how songwriting and singing have shaped her faith, and why hymns are so important.
Where did your desire to write hymns originate?
Interestingly, we didn't set out to write hymns. My husband and I just decided in the beginning we wanted to create music we'd want to sing in church. Keith has a background in classical and traditional music, while I studied literature. We began writing songs that told a story. Our aim was to explore the full riches of the gospel through music. With each song we've created, two goals exist: we desire for the word of Christ to dwell richly in the believer's heart (Colossians 3:16), and that our music would be easy to sing for all generations and styles of churches. Eventually, our songs were described as a new type of modern hymn.
What defines a hymn?
I don't necessarily think there's a scientific definition. To us, a hymn isn't defined by a particular style or structure, but rather by its purpose and use and by answering key questions, such as, Is this a melody congregations can sing across the generations? Can this be sung with or without any music at all? Do the lyrics build up the church?
Why has creating music for the church been your main focus?
My father planted a church in Ireland when I was a girl, and I grew up understanding the important role that the local church plays in our journey as followers of Christ. The church is a reminder that the path we walk as Christians has been well trodden by generations of believers who've gone before us. The faith we hold is something that's been tried, tested, and never found wanting. I sing songs in church now that I sung as a little girl and I know were sung long before I was born. These are songs that connect generations of believers in proclaiming the good news, nourishing the church, and reminding us we are part of a story bigger than our own, yet includes our journey too. Every generation needs its music, and it's a privilege to join those writing hymns for the church today. The body of Christ is a singing church—it always has been and always will be.
Corrie Cutrer is a writer who lives in Tennessee with her family. She's also a former assistant editor of Today's Christian Woman and recipient of several EPA writing awards. She is currently a regular contributor for Today's Christian Woman.