Hymns Wanted

Posted by Liz on March 4, 2014 in Collected Works, Faith, History, Interest, Thoughts, Words |

What happened to Hymnals?

I’m looking for a church that uses hymnals when they worship. You know, the books of a certain familiar size that contain music notated at one song a page, real music with bars and notes and 4 parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). It doesn’t matter that there are not enough hymnals to go around. I remember as a youth getting to know a stranger as they held the book open and close enough that we both could read it. When I was older I did the same for them. I learned how to read parts by listening as this person, usually much older than I, read and sing a different part then the melody. I followed the bounding dots to see which were the ones I heard. I realized many years later than in some cases they had altered their singing to sing the part that was easiest for me. I remember watching a family of many scooting close to see, squabbling and figgiting was at truce while all made sure the sharing was equitable and they competed to sing the words. Many can sing those same songs as adults. It didn’t matter that everyone had their own hymnal, each hymnal had a person.

I don’t understand ‘worship teams’. So many churches are in a hurry to buy the sound system required to field a group because all the other churches have one. And then there are drums, and an electronic keyboard, and any other manner of things “needed” to preform.  I once inquired about trying out for one of these groups and was told for no uncertain terms that I was not needed and did not qualify. From what I observe when the people walk upon the stage or are mentioned by the pastor that they are proud of their jobs and want everyone to know that they are a part of the worship team. We had much less of that when we had a choir that anyone who wanted could sing in, no matter how they sounded. Some churches didn’t even have soloists so that the praise went only to God. There are churches that don’t have pianos or organs any more, don’t they know that such as that well played could top electronics any day? Think about the finest of jazz, Motown, and blues. And what about those overhead, sometimes computer generated, song sheets on the wall. They have no notes, everyone sings the melody. Except for the worship team who knew what was coming all week and practiced all four parts (with improvisation and flourishes) Someone said that it was so that we could worship and not be distracted and everyone would know the tune. Who says it was distracting to find our part and sing loud so that God would hear the unified body working together to be as one but in harmony. As for people not knowing the parts, all they had to do was listen to the church member who invited them to sit next to them so that they could read the hymnal or at least hear the melody.

And what about picnics? You know, those things held outside using tables that were there already or that we brought from the church. The same with chairs. We all would bring a pot luck and in a really close churches the ladies would even coordinate so that we didn’t have too much of any one thing. We always knew and expected that the college students and single men would bring bread or potato chips or carrots that would need peeled and cut once they arrived. And at least one of the women would be ready. The pastor and elders were expected to cook on the grill – no excuse. The music? The youth minister was often the one who played the most beautiful guitar, and sometimes he was joined by one of the youth. An old-timer might even have a banjo, or harmonica, or one of the ladies brought her harp. No plug-in needed, no parking close enough to the picnic place or driving on the grass to make carrying equipment easy. The fellows all carried the ladies food contribution so that wasn’t a problem. The hymn books where there. They wouldn’t be any other place. They had a great trunk (or two) that a couple of the younger men carried. Nobody worried if they got dirty, or wet, or even forgotten because in doing so they would stand to be a witness. I’ve found over the years that those who fretted about bringing the hymnals were the same ones who always used the worship team and the overhead. The books hadn’t been open, except occasionally for one song, for many years. We’d nearly always finished off the singing with communion, in church or out. Don’t get me started about churches who only have communion once a month or three. They probably have worship teams, a dusty piano, and no hymnals.

I am looking for a church that has hymnals – and uses them.




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