Yes, there's a fair bit of dross been written in recent years.
However there's also an awful lot of old rubbish too. Even Wesley
managed a good few turkeys, and I bet there was even worse stuff that
has disappeared into oblivion. As for some of the late 19th century
drivel that still survives and is occasionally inflicted on
unsuspecting congregations... Go through the average traditional hymn
book and see how many really great bits of music there are, and then
reflect that what you see in the book is the product of around 150
years of hymn writing, and another hundred years of weeding out.
In my experience some of the people who criticise "boring repetitive" modern stuff will go into raptures about an Oratorio that has as its most famous piece a lyric consisting principally of a single word repeated ad (almost) infinitum. Those of us who do not find that particular style appealing may feel that there is just the tiniest trace of Pot and Kettle... Ultimately though, Church music is there to serve a purpose, and I believe that purpose is to help people worship God, so musical "quality" should take second place. (Not that that is any excuse for under rehearsed sloppy playing, but that's another flamewar...)
Its worth noting that Church Music in the form of a semi-professional
organist playing traditional hymns is very much a 19th century
innovation. Before that, outside the great cathedrals, I believe
Church Organs were pretty rare. Styles of music changed over the
decades with fashion in the same way that secular music did. The
Wesley era came at a time when the Church was in a very poor state.
As a result the new broom swept clean, and most of the older music
has gone from the repertoire. Having said that many Christmas Carols
are much older, and so are a few other acknowledged classics. The
folk song collections contain some marvellous music which has dropped
out of use in churches, and I think its a pity.
Before the awful sameness of the organ descended Church music was provided by a group of the local musicians in the same way that modern Parish Worship groups do. It could be subject to some of the same flaws too...
[Of course these days we heat the Churches, so nothing like that could happen...*]
© Jim Champ, 1998
*Not that it necessarily helps. Some years ago I left a Church band for what were in fact the cliched "Musical Differences" (I didn't say so at the time, it seemed tactless for some reason that escapes me now). I actually hadn't realised just how great those musical differences were, until after a service a couple of months later they came out with "Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the Old Oak Tree".**
**Not that I object to playing secular tunes in Church after services, even songs about released felons. My objection was on grounds of musical taste...