I am a pastoral musician. At least that is what I tell the choristers in my charge when I am choosing and rehearsing anthems and what I tell myself when I am selecting hymns for the congregation to sing.
Truth be told, I do try to choose “the old favorites” during the summer months when we do not have the choir in place for a few weeks. While attempting to remain faithful to our rich worship heritage of liturgy and lectionary readings, I do dive for the familiar hymns.
The Episcopal Church, however, is comprised of everything and everyone between Baptist and Roman Catholic, between agnostic and fundamentalist, between every week and once-a-month attendees. We are, indeed, the via media, bless our hearts.
The old, familiar hymns run the gamut. For those for whom Hyfrydol is a beloved, familiar hymn tune, you might have grown up singing “Alleluia, sing to Jesus” or “Love divine, all loves excelling” to that tune, while others grew up singing “Come, thou long-expected Jesus” to the same tune, as I did as a Methodist child.
Just for discussion, here is a partial list of hymns that we are singing this summer. Do any of these ring a bell?
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Jerusalem, my happy home
The Church’s one foundation
I love thy kingdom, Lord
O for a thousand tongues to sing (AKA “The Methodist National Anthem”)
God of our Fathers
Take my life, and let it be
How firm a foundation
Come, thou fount of every blessing
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates
Savior, like a shepherd lead us
I come with joy to meet my Lord
Glorious things of thee are spoken
I am the bread of life
God of grace and God of glory
I really do love what I do, and I love hitting the nail on the head with the lectionary and by choosing someone’s favorite hymn.
Our favorites are our favorites for many reasons. We remember a hymn from our early childhood; for me that is “This is my Father’s world.” We remember singing a particular hymn when we went to church with our grandmothers; for me that is “O God, our help in ages past.” We remember a hymn during a time of personal grief; for me that is “Eternal Father, strong to save,” the Navy hymn.
This Sunday morning (July 8), we are singing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” And I will guarantee that this hymn is someone’s favorite. Interestingly enough, and though a beloved favorite of many faith traditions, “Amazing grace” was not a part of the Episcopal tradition in this country until it appeared in The Hymnal 1982.
If “Amazing grace” is your favorite hymn, then this Sunday is your Sunday. See you in church!