Tag Archives: hymns
Our beloved organist (at St John’s Scottish Episcopal Church and the Crichton Memorial Church, both Dumfries), Tom Carrick, had a total dislike of modern “praise items”, with a special loathing of the hymns of Graham Kendrick.
When Tom died about four years ago, someone at St John’s sorted through his music and hymnaries that he’d left beside the church organ there.
In one of Tom’s hymn books, following the printed words of a hymn written by his bette noir, there was the credit, by “Graham Kendrick”, then the words, “born 1950”. Against this, Tom had penned this brief comment, “What a pity!”
A colleague mentioned that he recently had a bride-to-be on the phone, who said : “My fiancee and I have been to see your Church from the outside…does it have a centre aisle….you are one of a few whom we are considering for our wedding venue….how much does it cost?…..
Another minister friend once said to a couple “I hope the centre aisle and the photogenic steps are not the only reasons for you getting married in the church.” They never came back!
I once conducted a wedding in a particular hotel. After the ceremony, the marriage party walked the few yards down the street to have their photographs taken outside the nearby church
When I was minister at Inveresk Kirk, which has a rather large sanctuary, at one particular rehearsal (the bride was a parishioner) the lassie looked around in awe and said “It’s awfy big!” That was her first visit!
The layout of the building – whether it has a centre aisle, or the length of said aisle – should not be a criterion for someone to deign ones kirk with their presence. Stage management (best video/camera angles) is trying to manipulate so much these days when it comes to wedding services. I once did tell a video guy who was virtually leaning on my shoulder to **** off – luckily it was during the last hymn, but perhaps the sound was still active!
Regarding the choice of hymns…. “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “Morning has Broken” are very popular choices, because they are often the only hymns they know (from schooldays); however, a bit of cheeky inventiveness – once after the signing of the schedule, the couple exited to the Beatles “Ticket to Ride”. Deary me!
And, finally …. for the time being… (another colleague was asked): “can I put baby pink bows on each of those pewy thingies…?”
How sad it is when there is division or strife or conflict between or among the people of the body of Christ.
A particular friend of mine once was minister to two congregations on the outskirts of Glasgow – the East Church & the West. Both had been linked together – against their will – and they simply did not get on.
I remember him telling me of the first Christmas Eve Watchnight service he conducted – it was a united service in one of the kirks to which he ministered. The East folk sat together, as far away as they could from the West members.
When it came time for the offering to be uplifted, he heard the East’s treasurer say in a stage whisper to those round about him, “Don’t put very much in the collection plate; it’s going to be added to their building fund”
There was a church where the minister and the organist were not getting along. As time went by, this began to spill over into the Sunday services.
One week the minister preached on commitment and how we all should dedicate ourselves to the service of God. The organist just after the sermon, played softly “I Shall Not Be Moved.”
The second week the minister preached how we all should gladly & generously give to the work of the Lord. The organist played “Jesus Paid it All.”
The third week the minister preached on gossiping and how we should all watch our tongues. The organist played, “Tell me the old old story“
With all this going on, the minister became disgusted over the situation and the following Sunday told the congregation that he was considering resigning. The organist played, “O Happy Day”
Soon after, the minister did indeed resign. He informed the congregation that it was Jesus who led him there and it was Jesus who was taking him away.
The organist played, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
When I preach for A Rocha, the hymn ‘How great Thou art’ is often chosen. It’s often voted amongst all-time favourites, and verse two makes it an obvious choice for the Christian conservationist:
“When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain’s splendour,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze
Then sings my soul, my saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!”
Yet, whilst I love the tune and many of the lyrics, my heart sinks every time I hear the last verse:
‘When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation,
and take me home what joy shall fill my heart.’
Take me home? Where to? Surely not an airy-fairy ‘heaven’ dreamed up by Victorian painters and revivalist song writers, a ‘home in gloryland that outshines the sun, way beyond the blue horizon’? Listen to these words from the 1911 hymn ‘Anticipation’ by Charles Naylor:
‘When the last earth-tie is sundered, and my soul set free…
But when this short life is o’er, we shall weep and sigh no more,
But rejoice forevermore in our home on high.’
It would be hard to put more bad theology into a hymn if you tried:
- ‘Earth-tie’: a concept owing more to Gnostic heresy that the New Testament
- ‘my soul set free’: the bible never divides soul and body – this is pure Platonic dualism
- ‘our home on high’: NASA’s ‘Curiosity’ Mars rover hasn’t found it, but maybe it’s looking in the wrong place?
Don’t get me wrong! I’ve not stopped believing in heaven. Rather I’ve started to take my theology from the Bible rather than from the hymns I grew up with. And what have I found?
- Heaven is not a place for disembodied souls, but for physical resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15).
- The biblical images of God’s new (re-new-ed) creation include abundant wildlife, peaceful societies, and a removal of sin, death and suffering.
- Heaven is not a place in the sky, with clouds, harps and endless bad worship songs. It is wherever God lives. God’s plan is “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10), so that “God’s home is now among his people” (Revelation 21:3) on a cleansed and renewed creation. More on this next month…
Does it really matter what we sing? Yes it does! Because lyrics and tunes are memorable, they shape our theology more than most sermons. Worship leaders, please think about what you choose and songwriters please read the Bible carefully! Need inspiration? Here’s a genuinely biblical hymn about God’s future for Planet Earth (written by Isaac Watts in 1719):
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.