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Hallo again to all.

It is the last Sunday of the church year; next week is the First Sunday of Advent. Prepare ye.

a pipe organLast week we wrote about hymns and asked you to tell us your one favourite should you be stranded on a desert island. Do read our compilation of and commentary on the Top 20 hymns, even if you didn't send one in. One early respondent, trying to be silly, said ‘It all depends on whether the island is equipped with an organ, an electric guitar, or a harmonica and tambourine.’ Now that we've had a chance to read all of the hundreds of replies, we realise that this comment, in a way, was a summary of all our responses.

Your choices, comments, and stories about hymns highlight the great diversity within the Anglican world. Some observations:

  • Many respondents just sent us a hymn number in the hymnal that they are used to using. If we could figure out what country they lived in, we were able to decode that number, but otherwise we had to email them back asking ‘pray tell what country you inhabit’. We don't think this is because of laziness, but because of a genuine misunderstanding about different hymnals in different provinces.
  • The hymn most favoured in the USA is not even listed in, to choose one example at random, The New English Hymnal (1985).
  • Answers included both ‘anything by Graham Kendrick’ and ‘anything not by Graham Kendrick’.
  • One person wrote a hymn and submitted it as his favourite. His hymn uses a Graham Kendrick melody not found in the Cyberhymnal, our online reference.

a Fender StratocasterA recent graduate of a theological college told us that he was taught that, historically, music is the most contentious topic within congregations. When we see the disparate and passionate responses to our simple question, we can certainly believe it. People seem to be the most emotional not when their actions or bodies are threatened, but when their identities are threatened. ‘Criticise what I do, but not who I am.’ Music is at the core of most corporate worship. In a sense, criticising music is criticising the identity of the people who come to church because of it. We know people who left the Anglican church because they liked the music better in another. We remember a man who stopped attending church, any church, because he was so outraged by the playing of Advent music during 'the Christmas season' in early December. Some years ago we knew a young man who would phone the parish office on Friday to learn what music would be used, then attend Sunday service only if certain hymns were to be sung. And the only time that we have ever heard angry shouting in our church was after a Christmas Eve service once, an argument over whether the correct tune for ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ is St Louis or Forest Green.

We suspect that those of us who favour hymn music from past centuries are a dying breed, and that many of what we now think of as modern hymn tunes will be the classics of the next century. There will be church music as long as there is church, but the hymns of the 22nd century will be accompanied by synthesizers and not pipe organs. Maybe.

Our own favourites? Brian's is ‘Be thou my vision’, to Slane, and Cynthia's is ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’, to Hyfrydol. Simon prefers ‘Lo, He comes with clouds descending’, to Helmsley. Fred opts for ‘A mighty fortress is our God’ to, of course, Ein Feste Burg. Peter named ‘Lord Jesus Christ’, sung to Living Lord. Gillian named ‘Alleluia, sing to Jesus’, again Hyfrydol.

See you next week.

Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 23 November 2003

A thin blue line
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