I’ve mentioned it in other posts, I love a good Amen! I grew up in a church where you could usually expect an amen of some type at the end of every hymn. Obviously there was an amen at the end of every prayer as well. Therefore it is both familiar and comforting to have it there.
The online dictionary from Oxford Languages defines amen as an exclamation at the end of a prayer or hymn, meaning so be it. It is used in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim practices. The word itself has a Biblical Hebrew origin. In Hebrew it mean to be reliable or dependable, to be faithful, and to have faith or believe. It then passed into Greek, and then Latin. According to Wikipedia, amen occurs 30 times in the Hebrew Bible. It was used to affirm the words of another speaker (1 Kings, 1:36), refer to the words of another speaker without affirmation (Nehemiah 5:13), and as a final amen to one’s own words.
One of my favorite Amens is at the end of The Lord Bless You and Keep You by Peter C. Lutkin. One of my tasks during composition lessons was to write an Amen sequence. That was an assignment I really enjoyed. However, it was harder than I thought it would be.
According to archive.courierpress.com, The United Methodist church began deleting some amens from their 1966 hymnal and then did so entirely in their 1989 hymnal. In 1990 the Presbyterian Hymnal also omitted them. Apparently the Southern Baptist hymnal never included them. According to David Eicher at pcusastore.com writes that prior to the 1861 publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern, hymns didn’t include a sung amen. The Protestant Reformation hymns also didn’t have an amen. Some scholars think the addition of the amen was an error and that there was no precendent for having it there.
I wrote several versions of my Amen sequence, took my favorite one, and published it with two different voicings.
I think the reason that Amens work musically is because of two factors. The first is familiarity. For me at least, it takes me back to childhood. The other reason that it works musically is the vowel sound “ah” at the beginning of the word. It is such a beautiful vowel; nice to listen to and easy to sing. While all of the scholarly reasons for not having it sung at the end of a hymn may be historically accurate, I still like them!