Singing the Faith


Methodism was born in song... Or so we are informed in the oft quoted introduction to the 1933 Methodist hymnbook... And although the dreadful publication entitled Hymns and Psalms published in 1983 might potentially have contributed to the death of Methodism, we have survived it and are now staggering into the process by which a newer anthology will be compiled. Whether many churches will opt for a paper copy of this or abandon hymnbooks entirely in favour of projecting words onto screens I don't know... Although in my own church we largely project the words, I do hope we never fully abandon hymnbooks, because whilst I am not certain that Methodism was born in song, it was certainly nourished by its sacred songs as it grew. We sing our theology... It is the hymns of Charles Wesley that should be noted as a statement of normative Methodist belief rather than John Wesley's 44 Sermons... When was the last time you heard someone whistling a sermon? The only thing that worries me is that many of the hymns and songs of recent years are theologically illiterate... Marginally better than the twee rubbish that came out in the 1960s and 70s and was included in Hymns and Psalms, but still illiterate.

Anyway, I didn't actually begin this post intending to rant, but sadly that seems my default, Victor-Medrewesque setting these days. What I was going to do was point those interested in the direction of a really useful resource. Whilst looking for information on this new adventure in Methodist hymnody because I'm going to have to draft someone from a committee I convene to sit on the panel preparing this hymnal, I discovered a really interesting site on the British Methodist Church website, offering brand new hymns dealing with contemporary issues. Some of them are banal, but most of them are genuine attempts to wrestle theologically with real, everyday events. There's even one about the Large Hadron Collider... So if (when it is switched back on after a bit of a repair) it does manage to create a black hole that will suck us all to oblivion, then we have something appropriate so that Methodism (and everything else) might also die in song!

Comments

gadgetguy said…
I, for one, hope that I will always find hymnbooks in the pews (or whatever type of seating). I am much more comfortable singing when I have the music, not just the words, in front of me. With the music, you not only know what to sing, but how to sing it. On the growing less occasional times that we are singing a number that is not in the hymnal and only the words are either printed in the bulletin and/or projected on the screen, I generally don't participate unless it's a hymn that I know by heart, (and can see the music in my head).
You wouldn't enjoy our hymnbooks then... Most of them are words edition only!
Alan in Belfast said…
Brilliant post - thanks - I couldn't help but repost the LHC hymn. Thank God for Methodists!
Doreen M.S. Nightingale said…
I did warn in the Methodist Recorder letters page that this new hymn book was going to be too large and like the music copy of Hymns and Psalms (which I had as a gift) would be a misery to use. And it is.

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