June 2011

Sing Out!

I can’t sing and I must sing!  Those of you who have found yourselves standing near me during a hymn, know that I am not able to stay on key, but you know that because I do sing out anyway.  I love to sing and I wish I could sing better.  I should probably clarify that a bit.  It is not that I go around singing Beatles songs or crooning old Sinatra numbers.  I might be able to mimic Bob Dylan’s voice, but I have no desire to do so.  What I love to sing are hymns and praise songs.  I love both the old hymns I grew up singing and the new ones I am still learning.  In the 1980’s I was introduced to the “song prayers” of what I call the Catholic renewal movement (such as “Here I Am, Lord” and “Be Not Afraid” and “One Bread, One Body”).  These have touched me deeply.

            Music is the most important element of worship for me.  I have felt this way for a long time.  When I was in college, I attended a Presbyterian Church with a great preacher.  I took notes on his sermons while he was preaching.  I don’t know what happened to those notes; they are long gone, as is the information they contained.  On the other hand, I never took notes on the hymns, but I carry them in my soul.  Preaching can instruct me, inform me, correct me, challenge me, and even inspire me occasionally.  But when I am singing hymns, I am worshipping.  Hymns draw my mind and my heart together into the presence of God.  Hymns feed my soul and give voice to my spirit.  Hymns join me to my community of faith: we sing to God with voices united.  I am convinced that God takes great delight in our singing together in worship.

            We are a congregation blessed with wonderful music in great variety, both choral and instrumental.  I love that about our church!  Every year, during June, we celebrate the gift of music with an extra emphasis.  There will be more than the usual number of choral numbers added to our hymns on the last two Sundays of the month.  Our Chancel Choir will provide them on June 19th, and our Gospel Choir, the United Sounds of Praise, will provide them on June 26th.

            One hymn that we sing every year at this time is “When in Our Music God Is Glorified.”  It is a little more contemporary than many of the hymns we know by heart.  Although the tune was composed in 1904, the lyrics were written in 1971.  One commentator wrote: “When in Our Music is the only hymn text in Christendom that explains the reasons for church music while simultaneously offering "alleluias" to God.  In lyrics and music, the hymn soars, and our spirit with it. 


When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried,



How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound



So has the church, in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue:



Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always,



            To this, I can only say AMEN and urge you when you worship to SING OUT!