What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

29 May 2011

Let Us Open our Hymnals...

Okay, that's a joke. I haven't been a member of a church that actually uses hymnals since I got married. Churches are mostly using powerpoint now.

I was a teen when I first
found out that I was
allowed to own a hymnal,
I was a teenager when someone pointed out to me for the first time that most hymns have a story behind them. (Probably all hymns do, actually, but I hate to make that kind of totalizing claim.) There's the very well-known story behind "Amazing Grace", for instance: After being saved from a storm at sea, John Newton went from being an atheist slave-trader to a believer in Christ and a minister. Hence such phrases as "I once was lost, but now am found" or "through many dangers... I have already come". The tune, I've heard, was taken from a song he had heard the captured people, soon to be slaves, singing as they travelled.

So when we sing a hymn, it isn't just instructional (although they can be) or encouraging (although I've found that to be the case) or praise (which they certainly are). It's a little slice of someone's life that has been set to music. A heart that cried out to God found solace in writing it down, and the cry now echoes through the ages as it is sung again and again. Or joy bubbled up out of a soul and spilled onto a page, recorded and rejoiced in again by people who never witnessed the writer's happiness but share in it now.

If I were to start listing off my favourite hymns, this would turn into an insufferably long post. So instead, I turn it over to you: What's your favourite hymn?


Anonymous said...

Not sure of the name, it is just a number in the old book, but it goes....
"O Master, let me walk with Thee
In lowly paths of service free;
Tell me Thy secret, help me to bear
The strain of toil, the fret of care."

Jenny said...

To be honest, Amazing Grace is my least favorite. I admire the words, but at every church service I've been to where it is played, it drags like a funeral dirge. It's depressing. I've also heard it sung at most of the funerals I've been to, so maybe there is a connection there, but whatever the case I simply cringe when I hear it. It grates on my nerves.

BUT I do have 3 favorite hymns:
"How Great Thou Art"
"For The Beauty of the Earth"
"The Lord Bless You and Keep You"

Oh, and "It Is Well With My Soul" is a family favorite too. :)

Loved this post! Makes me want to sing! Pray for my family- we're in the process of changing churches; a major factor in this is the cost of gas to get to the church we are in now, vs the church literally a mile down the road. But another factor is, ironically, the music program difference. :)

Su said...

@mybabyjohn: I like that one, too. And since I still have my hymnal handy, I looked it up: Lo and behold, it's called "O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee". ;) I love it when the song name & the first line are the same!

@Jenny: I really only like Amazing Grace if it's being played on the bagpipes. And I had that written in the post, but I guess I took it out? Don't remember why now. And those are also all brilliant hymns. If I had to choose a life-long favourite, it would probably be "How Great Thou Art". And I will certainly be praying for you! We're changing churches just now, too, also partly because of the music. It's interesting just how important that is to worship.

Mary Mary said...

I'd have to say that I grew up singing many hymns. My favorite was "At the Cross" and I guess "The Old Rugged Cross." I like the hymns about finding redemption through the shed blood of Christ.

mshatch said...

I like amazing grace played on the bagpipes.

erica and christy said...

I had NO IDEA that churches went to power point - around here, it's still hymnals!

I'm not absolutely in love with hymns, sorry. Someone above mentioned How Great Thou Art and I do appreciate that one. There are several Christmas ones I like, too. But mostly when I sing them, I try not to pass out from how obnoxiously long some people think we can hold a note for!

Su said...

@Mary Mary: Both good ones! There are just so many hymns that I like. :)

@mshatch: Isn't it brilliant?

@Erica: Hee hee... perhaps powerpoint isn't allowed in Wisconsin. Fair point about the long note-holding! Sometimes it is a bit much!

Jenny said...

There are a few beginner bagpipe players who come out to Civil War Reenactments in kilts and play AG. But poorly and for 45 minutes to an hour. I'm sure I'd like it if it were a professional piper playing it. Maybe. ;)

And my husband's family is so into church music that when his Aunt was the choir director at the church we were members of/married at, she all but made me audition for her before she would approve for him to propose! All that family togetherness sometimes backfires, however: there are "alternate words" to some of the classics (Thanks, teenage husband and brother in law. You're a riot. Truly.) and there are HILARIOUS stories to go with some others. ("Love Lifted Me" is the best. I can tell you later if you *really* care to know. xD )

Su said...

Heh heh heh. If it's anything like the alternative words to "When The Roll is Called up Yonder" that I learned a few years ago, then I bet it's hysterical.

Jenny said...

DH and B-I-L sing this instead of "At the cross":
"At the bar, at the bar, where I smoked my first cigar,
and my nickels and my dimes rolled away (rolled away),
It was there by chance that I tore my Sunday pants
and now I can wear them every day"
This dissolves S-I-L and me into giggles and garners dirty looks from surrounding pews...

But I got DH back yesterday. I'm a huge Anglophile, right? So we're singing patriotic hymns for memorial day and we get to "My Country Tis of Thee" during the opening bars where he finds his pitch, really quietly where only he can hear, I also find my pitch: By singing "God Save The Queen".

Before anyone gets offended, I don't take lightly the sacrifice of the people we remember on Memorial Day. And I am fiercely patriotic and love the USA more than I could ever want to be a British citizen. But the opportunity to get him back was just sitting there, so I seized it. And then sang the rest of the song properly, while his shoulders shook and his face turned red from trying not to laugh. ;)

Su said...

Heh heh heh.

I can't sing "My Country, Tis of Thee" any longer. I only hear "God Save the Queen". And if someone gets offended, that's a bummer, but that's what happens when we steal another country's anthem and make it into our own patriotic song. And then I go live in that country for a couple of years. ;)

Kari Marie said...

I think many people think hymns were written specifically to teach or for praise. But, you are correct, many of them were written from personal experience and a feeling that God is present - much like some of today's musical artists will write about their own experiences of loss, love and comfort (with or without the God part). I guess, no matter what time it is written, music can be a personal and effective way of communicating a message. I bet Newton never thought Christians would still be singing his song, much like I'm sure Lennon might never have thought Imagine would remain a classic through time either (but he might have hoped).
Personally, I can't get through a single verse of either How Great Thou Art or Amazing Grace without crying.

Su said...

Yes, I think you are 100% correct!

Anonymous said...

When I was younger I loved singing 'Our God Reigns' but I also love the may one 'Bring Flowers of the rarest' haven't heard it for a long time now.

Deniz Bevan said...

Powerpoint??? I'd rather have a hymnal :-)
Let's see... I love Jerusalem, I Vow To Thee My Country, Praise My Soul The King of Heaven, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Bread of Heaven... All the old English ones :-)

Su said...

@Catherine: I don't know the second one! I'll have to look it up.

@Deniz: It's so rare that we sing a song that I don't know that I really don't use either one! :) Yours are all lovely choices as well.