29/10/11 From the Minister's Hymnsheet: People are passionate about their worship!
Eight years of picking hymns for the services here rather takes its toil after a while. Every congregation has ideas about worship and I find some areas of hymnody quite a challenge
- The congregation do not know a number of hymns in our resources. Even when some have been sung a number of times people still say ‘don’t know that’.
- I am rather hazy on some hymns in the books and I am not too brave about picking unknown songs.
- I know that some modern hymns would cause complaint.
- I have had complaints on occasions about the hymns but that goes with the territory.
- One does try to follow a theme in the choice for worship but when I did the commandments a few years back adultery, killing and stealing were particularly hard services to organise.
Worship is a time for approach to God, it can be done in any location and at any time. It should lift our hearts and enable us to look to our Lord and forget our wants and desires. It is about him and not about us. In worship people bring needs and require ministry each week. It is a period when we should also view the bigger picture of God’s love, call and creativity for each of our hearts. We may also need to deal with issues of forgiveness. People can be very passionate about their worship, they can hold expectations that may prove too individual for a corporate act of worship.
I used to attend St Michael-le-belfrey in York which was David Watson’s church. 1000 people gathered for worship and it was an incredible event and just lifted the soul when people came together. There the clergy gave themes to the worship group and the group sorted out the orders of service. We used a lot of new material, we also sang the traditional hymns.
Some weeks it would bless most people while on other occasions there were grumbles at the doors. But most of the time things worked very well indeed.
I write this as we are about to use the new book Singing The Faith which will bring many new hymns to our acts of worship. The organists have already begun playing some of the new tunes in our services. I had just started at Cliff College as Hymns and Psalms had been launched in 1983 and remember some of those early experiences with the new book. 450 ‘Moses I know you’re the man’ proved hard and unpopular in those early days. 315 ‘God’s spirit is in my heart’ was a struggle and not helped by the musical introduction that most organists have now ditched. Today we sing these and other hymns without difficulty but it took a while to adjust. And I can tell you free of charge that a similar experience is coming soon to a pew near you.
The new book seems to be more radical than Hymns and Psalms and contains diverse material. It will need learning and practising and some thought is being given for introducing new hymns to our congregation. One will endeavour not to make all four hymns a new experience in Morning Worship and I will not unleash five new ones on the Evening Service.
However it is going to be a learning curve and I am sure there will be patience from all quarters (hint, hint) as we enrich our worship together.
Years ago Sara said to me ‘They had that hymn again this morning for the children’s address’, I knew immediately which one she was talking about. Different preachers had already chosen it several times that year before we reached April. The Junior Church didn’t even need to look at the words. It had a good tune and was well known but singing it every week was driving people bats. The church banned it saying that one could have too much of a good thing. They insisted on learning new material and it made all the difference to their worship.
The hymn we stopped singing had the chorus
‘And it’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you’