Hymn Singing

– by Barth Fraker, Director of Traditional Music

I grew up in a family that often centered our gatherings around hymn singing. On Saturday nights, family and friends would gather in the living room of my grandparents’ home, standing room only.

We would pull out the songbooks, shout out a number, and start singing. When I say singing… I mean SANGING! All verses and all parts. It was robust and harmonious.

My grandfather taught what we called shape note singing. Each note had a shape connected to a syllable. I have many memories of my grandfather leading singing in rural Webster County at Ebenezer Church.

The sound was simply glorious!

Today, we sing what we might call “old hymns,” but what do we really mean by “old”? Often, what we call old might be something like “How Great Thou Art,” written in 1949, or “Because He Lives,” written in 1971. In reality, an actual “old hymn” would be “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” written in 1529, or “Joy to the World,” written in 1719.

Hymns are not just a thing of the past; hymns are being written today. One we sing regularly is “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” This song is rich in music and most of all rich in text.

Modern-day hymn writer Keith Getty offers encouragement and a challenge when it comes to singing hymns old or new, “If you are singing the songs as a member of the assembly of the saints, then don’t just sing, but think. What are you singing? How does it point you to Jesus as He reveals Himself in His Word?”

I love congregational singing at Schweitzer! I love hymns, old and new, and equally love many modern worship songs. No matter the style, we proclaim that the cross still stands, blood still speaks, and the grave is still empty!

I hope you will join us for a special night of Hymn Singing on Wednesday, June 26, at 6:30 pm in the Schweitzer Sanctuary, followed by an ice cream social.

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