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 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?