Hymn singing in church is actually a fairly recent innovation: traditionally, hymns were mainly sung at Matins and Vespers, but not in the Sunday main (Communion) service. The practice of hymn-singing in the Communion service was a Lutheran innovation at the time of the Reformation. It serves a simple purpose: to put the word of God in the mouths and ears of the congregation. (Col 3:16).
Hence, the hymns are part of the day’s liturgy in the same way that the readings and prayers are, and for the same reason. The different hymns of the service have their own role in the service.
1. The opening hymn is usually either a hymn of invocation, asking for God to bless the congregation that has gathered to receive His gifts, or a hymn of confession, preparing them for the confession of sins.
2. The sermon hymn, or hymn of the day, is linked specifically to the day’s readings, and its main role is to teach the word to the congregation.
3. The communion hymn should really be a distribution hymn, sung during the Communion to assist the congregation to appreciate and rightly to receive the Sacrament.
4. The closing hymn is frequently a hymn of praise, thanking God for the gifts received, or a commissioning hymn, sending the congregation back into the world with the word of God on their lips as they prepare to serve God and neighbour in their daily lives.