I’m in Hymn Heaven.
Recently, we changed churches, for reasons I won’t mention here. We came from a large multi-campus megachurch where even the traditional service had become mostly choruses driven by guitars and drums with a praise team that had to sing so hard to overcome the miked instruments (really, who needs to mike drums?) that they were often flat—when you could hear them over the instruments.
For several years now, we’ve been coming late to service and staying out in the foyer until the music was finished, because the decibels often got to earsplitting numbers that hit me physically. Consequently, I’ve missed out on the part of worship I love the most—the singing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think all instruments can praise the Lord as well as all styles of music. In fact, there are lots of great choruses I love to sing, and we sang plenty of those at my former church. But when there’s no joy left in the singing there’s a loss in worship for me.
The old hymns are part of my Christian heritage, but I also love them for their words. The verses of hymns tell a story that modern choruses don’t and can’t when you are merely repeating the same phrase a bazillion times.
This Sunday, at our new church—where only an unmiked organ and piano accompanies the congregation— we sang I’ll Fly Away.
I leaned over to my best friend sitting next to me and whispered, “Do you know how long it’s been since I sang this song?” She smiled and nodded and raised her voice louder in praise.
The song transported me back to Grandma Cat and Poppy’s little country church in Sand Gap, Kentucky, where I could hear the twang of Kentucky voices singing to the accompaniment of the old foot bellow organ. Not only did the music of the song lift me up, but the memories of my grandparents lifted me, and I sang with such joy, letting the music and memories flow over me in praise.
We’ve also sung the first song I ever performed as a solo—I Come to the Garden—at least three times in the four months I’ve been attending. Memories of my dad and Poppy teaching me this song at age 6 to sing at Poppy’s church flooded back the first time we sang the song at our new church. I particularly remember going over and over a jump in the notes because I couldn’t get it right. By the time we’d finished practicing, I knew the song by heart.
I Come to the Garden, also known as In the Garden, was my dad’s favorite song and probably mine, too. I think of him every time I hear it. Doesn’t matter if it’s me singing the song, Elvis, or a congregation: it brings back precious memories each time.
Music has great power and evokes emotions in all of us. I’ve missed the hymns of my childhood and am immensely enjoying rediscovering them again.
What about you, do you have a favorite old hymn?