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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


ac·cre·tion [uh-kree-shuh n]
an added part; addition: The last part of the legend is a later accretion.

Accretion is a new word for me, however I find its meaning very helpful. I came across this word in the book In God’s Presence by N Graham Standish. In an early chapter, the author explains the difference between tradition and accretion, and how we often confuse the two.

Tradition has to do with the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, usually by word of mouth or by practice. In other words, tradition represents a long established practice. Accretion, on the other hand, has to do with elements that are added to our practice that are not actually part of the original. Given enough time, however, we often come to see the more recent material as also being part of our original traditions; hence the confusion.

As an interesting example, singing psalms or hymns in worship is an ancient practice that goes back to King David and beyond, and can rightly be said to be part of both Jewish and Christian tradition. (Both Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels refer to Jesus and his disciples singing a hymn together at the end of the Passover meal we call the Last Supper. See Mark 14:26 or Matt 26:30. ) On the other hand, the songs or hymns we currently sing are all accretions.

Another example is the playing of musical instruments in church, which is a relatively recent accretion. In the early 19th century, with the exception of cathedrals or very large structures, churches generally did not use instruments, and almost all church singing was performed a cappella, i.e. without instruments or “chapel style”. Presumably this is the reason that, when the Kirtland Temple was built in Ohio in the 1830s, no musical instrument was installed. Within 50 years, however, a new and controversial idea was sweeping churches: pipe organs! Consequently, when the Auditorium was built in the 1930s and after, a magnificent pipe organ was included in the structure.

Initially, the use of organs in worship was very controversial with some people wanting them while others disdained the new additions. Some churches even split over the issue. While pipe organs had been around for centuries, they were simply not widely accepted for church use. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the instrument was becoming popular and was even proclaimed by some to be “the instrument of the church.”

In our day, some see the pipe organ (or the more recent electric organ) as being part of church tradition. It is not. It is, in fact, a recent accretion, having been in general use by churches for a mere 150 years. Singing songs in worship is traditional. The songs we use and the instruments that accompany them are merely a matter of popular choice.

Posted by Carman

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