ACW

ACW

Thursday, 29 September 2016

THE JOY OF HYMNS by ALLISON SYMES

I don’t have a favourite hymn.  So much depends on how I’m feeling and the time of year.  My favourite carol is In the Bleak Midwinter, which is inappropriate for most of the year even in Britain! 

One happy childhood memory is of our church organist playing Onward Christian Soldiers on a piano in ragtime.  Yes, ragtime.  It sounded wonderful, it always cheered me up (you had to sing with gusto, which always makes me smile!), he died far too early and I’ve never heard it played the same way since.


At the recent Swanwick Summer School, I loved the Lift Up Your Hearts service held at 8 daily (bar the last day).  Most of these services were held in the beautiful Chapel (images below) at the Hayes.  (All images by me).

The Chapel at The Hayes Conference Centre

The front of the Chapel

The arbour
The arbour with its message to "Be Still" was also a great place to think and pray.

The most popular hymn that week was How Great Thou Art. The pianist played this in a way that recalled my memories of my ragtime playing chap. I must admit if I envy anyone, I do envy (a little) piano players.  Playing the piano has been one of those things I would’ve loved to have done but I admire anyone who plays it well.  I also think There is A Green Hill Far Away sounds better on a piano.  The instrument can have a mournful quality, which is apt for this hymn, that an organ can’t manage.

What do I look for in a hymn?  Much as I love a good tune, it is the words that mean the most and I look for imagery. I love Graham Kendrick’s The Servant King with the line “hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered”.   Whenever I sing this I see in my mind’s eye the stars being flung out.

But for imagery and comfort when needed, I don’t think you can better O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.  There is so much imagery in the title for a start but my favourite line talks about “tracing the rainbow through the rain”.  Any Christian who has ever known sadness or difficulty (is there anyone who hasn’t?!), will identify with this.

For upbeat imagery, I would select Charles Wesley’s And Can It Be?  The line “I woke, the dungeon flamed with light, My chains fell off, my heart was free.” Again I picture this and “live it” every time I sing it.

There is, of course, some wonderful poetry in our hymns.  When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is probably one of my favourites there.  Another is Just As I Am. So over to you then!  What hymn inspires you the most and why?

10 comments:

  1. I love The day Thou gavest Lord is ended. There's something thrilling about the thought that we're part of a kingdom that never sleeps, and at every moment of every day and night we have brothers and sisters around the world who are worshipping God with us.

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  2. Allison, you have already captured some of my favourite hymns. I too love the imagery of 'hands that flung stars into space'. I also love the words of 'O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go'. And they were so appropriate to me after I came back to faith following a major crisis of faith.

    I also love Matt Redman's 10,000 reasons. I have also just discovered a song called 'I can only imagine' by MercyMe

    "Surrounded by your glory
    What will my heart feel?
    Will I dance for you Jesus,
    Or in awe of you be still?
    Will I stand in your presence,
    Or to my knees will I fall?
    Will I sing Halelluja,
    Will I be able to speak at all?
    I can only imagine​"

    These words, together with the music can reduce me to tears.

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    1. I had not heard of 10,000 reasons, Lynda, but I can see why you love this. Fantastic words.

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  3. Oh, yes! This post rang all sorts of bells with me, and I'll probably come and comment about my favourite hymns later, but for now I want to give you this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps8Q_uAeT0U
    (I just googled as soon as I read your line about Onward Christian Soldiers in ragtime!)

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, A(me). Wonderful playing! I recall my chap playing it at a much faster rate (it seemed really fast to me when I was a kid anyway) but there was no mistaking the ragtime style. Lovely to hear it again. Thank you!

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  4. Great post. There are so many lovely hymns. My favourite is Love divine, all loves excelling. Still remember the excitement of learning to play it on my piano at the age of 11:)

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    1. As with so many others I expect, Love Divine was one of my wedding hymns. The only trouble with it is agreeing with everyone what tune to use! I prefer Hyfrydol (as I think it is known). But fantastic words. And it shows even the warmest human love just pales by comparision to the divine love for us all.

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  5. Some great hymns featured here. Thanks for your great enthusiasm for them!

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  6. It was a real joy to write this piece. I love hymns both Ancient and Modern!

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