Some of my earliest and most significant memories of church life are filled with the sounds and strains of hymns:“Blessed Assurance” at the conclusion of an emotional, week-long revival.
- “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and “Victory in Jesus” sung in the heat of an August night, under my church’s outside pavilion with funeral home fans in hand, and the homemade ice cream just ready to be enjoyed after our summer hymnsing.
- “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” sung heartily by my church family, as I stepped out alone in the aisle to claim my young faith as my own.
- “Worthy of Worship” as sung in a choir of hundreds – me included! – upon the release of the 1991 Baptist Hymnal.
- “How Great Thou Art” and “It Is Well With My Soul” at one grandfather’s funeral; “Crown Him With Many Crowns” at the other’s.
- “Great is thy Faithfulness,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that have anchored me in God’s mercies that are new every morning
- “God of Grace and God of Glory” sung by you, my new beloved community, in worship on the day of my installation, where I felt every bit of summoning to God for that great wisdom and courage for the living of these days.
I’m sure each and every one of us could make a similar list! These songs of faith, sung over time and seasons and life stages, shape our theology and practice of faith so powerfully.
As a music major in college, I took several courses in church music, a class on hymnology among them. I approached the class, thinking that we’d spend each day just singing the old hymns I so loved. But it wasn’t until that experience that I began to understand the power of hymns to speak to God’s movement in the world, movement that is becoming with each passing year and circumstance and generation.I learned about hymns of lament, hymns for high holy days, hymns for justice and reconciliation.
You and I have a chance this weekend that is an embarrassment of (hymn) riches! We are hosting a hymn festival on Friday and Saturday at First Baptist called “Let Justice Sing Down,” where, together with sisters and brothers around town, we’ll hear from the most creative minds in American hymnology. Do come and join us, as we learn and listen for God through the strains of hymns. Read more at divinity.wfu.edu/songfestival, and hope to see you here!
Together in the work of Love,