Reflections on Treasured Hymns
What songs do you return to when you are in need? What songs restore peace to your soul whenever you recall them?
I have recently taken on the role of Music and Praise Section Editor for the Tidings. I’m so happy to be here! I am a member of the Simi Hills Ecclesia in Simi Valley, California and an honorary member of the Los Angeles Hispanic Ecclesia. I play piano and a little bit of guitar (8 chords, to be exact!).
I grew up with a dad who made up funny little tunes to Bible verses on the spot, a grandfather who led Bible School choirs, and friends who quite literally showed me the way to God through powerful evenings of musical worship. Lately, one of my greatest joys is listening to my 2-year-old sing the Hallelujah descant of the song “Seek Ye First” (Hymn 356).
I have offered worship and praise to God in other parts of the world, including India, Mexico, Jamaica and South Africa, at times not in my native language. I find it awe-inspiring that God hard-wired us to connect more deeply to Him and those around us through the medium of music.
In my new role with the Tidings magazine, I greatly look forward to collaborating with many of you, dear readers. Together we can cultivate a joy in and an appreciation of God’s goodness, of which music is an ultimate expression. We are working toward a day when, as described in Revelation 5:13, every single creature—whether in heaven, on earth, under the earth or in the sea—will lift-up their voice in praise of our Father.
Apart from introducing myself, I also wish to offer a warm word of thanks and commendation to my predecessor, Sis. Kristin Atwood, for a year of diverse, interesting, practical and encouraging articles. Her May 2021 article about the Christadelphian Worship Books is a must-read for those interested in learning more songs written by brothers and sisters worldwide.
It is hard to know what the pandemic-related news will be like when this article is published, but as of April 2021, all my recent ecclesial worship has been via Zoom, to which I am sure many will relate. Yet, I do not think any of us have forgotten the feeling of singing together in real-time in nonvirtual spaces. Years or even decades spent singing sweet and familiar hymns have lodged them deep into our hearts.
Although I appreciate musical praise in many forms, this year has led me back to some of the hymns I grew up with, particularly those I have very early memories of.
What songs do you return to when you are in need? What songs restore peace to your soul whenever you recall them?
I reached out to several of our brothers and sisters—who for decades have sung our hymns—to ask them to share their stories. Do you have a deep love for any particular hymn? I asked. Please share which hymn has profoundly impacted your life and in what way.
The responses began trickling back, brightening my email inbox. I am grateful to those who took the time to share stories from their heart depths with us. Before reading, if possible, I suggest you grab a copy of the 2002 “Green Book” and follow along. I suggest you read each hymn as a piece of poetry before reading the corresponding thoughts here.
Bro. Tom Ross noted when he replied to this prompt, “It’s interesting that at this time of the pandemic we have been using more recorded songs and for some reason, the words in these songs have more meaning now than ever before. I can’t wait to see what others have written.”
I pray the reflections that follow bring you joy and peace.
SIS. KAY COLLISTER, CA—HYMN 116
“Praise my soul, The King of Heaven, To his feet thy tribute bring.” This hymn has such a special meaning for me. It was the hymn that Jack (my late husband) and I chose for our wedding service so many years ago. I remember singing it with such enthusiasm and joy. How thankful I was at the prospect of marrying my best friend and brother.
May we all, by God’s grace, be accounted worthy to sing to Him together in that glorious Kingdom.
“Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.” I was thankful for the blessing of praising the everlasting King! What a wonderful promise there is in the words “Father-like, He tends and spares us…In His hands He gently bears us!” Only with hindsight can I see that He has been with us all through the years.
And, finally, we come to the climax “Saints triumphant, bow before Him, Gathered in from every race;… Praise ye all the God of grace.” May we all, by God’s grace, be accounted worthy to sing to Him together in that glorious Kingdom.
BRO. RUSS PATTERSON, CA— HYMNS 88 AND 102
I never grew up with much music in my life, so I am still learning about the value of it. These are two hymns that give me peace and encouragement every day.
Hymn 88: As I sing, “Great is Thy faithfulness,” I am reminded that everything promised by God is certain because the giver, God, is faithful in all things. He is unchangeable. His compassion does not change.
If the one who gives promises is not faithful, all promises, no matter how great they may sound, are empty because the giver of the promises is unfaithful. Not so with our merciful LORD. His compassions are certain, His great mercy and love are sure. Pardon for sins and assurance for peace endures.
God has given me many blessings with thousands beside. I have absolute confidence that everything that I need will be abundantly provided because I worship a God who is faithful.
Hymn 102: When I sing this hymn, I think of the wonder and beauty of God. I am filled with awe at His power and might, how He merits our worship and hope. Yet, great as He is, He relates to us poor sinners and asks the love of our poor heart. What a wonderful God we serve.
BRO. LES WILSON, VA —HYMN 110 AND THE TRADITIONAL SONG “SOON AND VERY SOON”
During times in my life especially when I am feeling down, feeling like I have the world on my back, there are certain hymns I think about that help me. My wife, Sis. Sharron Hill-Wilson, had been involved in a long struggle with cancer. During this challenging time, I was trying to care for her to the best of my ability.
She died on October 13, 2005, two weeks before I was told by my doctor that I, too, had cancer. I prayed that my Heavenly Father would help me to get through this sad and difficult period in my life. During this time, there were two hymns or songs I thought about and hummed.
These songs were African American spirituals that brought me much comfort. I was raised as a Baptist and the congregational music from my childhood helped me as a grown man to deal with the most difficult trials of my life.
One of my favorite spiritual songs was “Soon and Very Soon” by composer and singer Andraé Crouch (1942-2015) in which he sang in part: Soon and very soon we are going to see the king. Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king. No more crying there, we are going to see the king.
This hymn was based in part on Revelation 21:4,
I look forward to that day so much as expressed in one of our hymns “How Great Thou Art.” (Hymn 110): O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder Consider all The works Thy Hand hath made. These songs have helped me through much grief. I so look forward to that day when I will see the beautiful smile of Sharron once again for eternity.
SIS. LORRAINE MITCHELL, GUYANA—HYMN 208
It has been a great privilege for me from the time I understood the Truth in 1951 to share this hymn with others. When the gospel of the Kingdom of God on this earth with Jesus as King first burst upon me at the age of 28, I was so excited. I could not stop talking about it. I am still talking about it. Everywhere I go is an opportunity to speak, whether at the hairdresser, the dentist, standing in line at the bank, post office or wherever.
the world is like a sea of people drowning, and you have a lifeline
I often recall our late brother Will Watkins telling me that the world is like a sea of people drowning, and you have a lifeline. You may be the only one they ever met who knew the Truth. What would you do? Obviously, throw out the lifeline and speak to them.
The favorite hymn that immediately comes to mind is 208 in the 2002 Hymn Book. (Verses 1 and 5 are particularly relevant.) “O use me, Lord, use even me!”
BRO. RAY RILEY, CA—HYMN 2
I came from a variety of churches each with their own hymn book. In 1962, I was taken to my first Christadelphian meeting where I expected to find familiar hymns—and did not! They were from the 1932 Christadelphian Hymn Book and most had a very Scottish ring to them. Dear Sis. Francis gave me a copy and it wasn’t long before this Finnish-Irishman also sang with great gusto these hymns as a bona fide Christadelphian.
There ought always to be a hallmark in our hymns; something expressive of our peculiar beliefs. I believe this is important. The Oneness of God, the true nature of man, the Kingdom on earth, the promises given unto the fathers, the redemption of Israel, the Second Coming. They are unique to Christadelphia, and our hymns, our exhortations, our letters, our very conversations, need to express such thoughts.
encapsulated in so few words lies our salvation
Just as my favorite verse in the Bible has changed, so have my favorite hymns. When I was young, I liked the martial air of “Zion’s King Shall Reign Victorious” (309). Now I’m more subdued, reflective and I am moved more by those such as hymn 2, based on Psalm 5: “Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation, my King and my God. Hearken unto the voice of my cry” composed by dear Sis. Marie McCrone, now asleep in the Lord.
I have written on the page in my hymn book, “encapsulated in so few words lies our salvation.” Also written on the page “A beautiful hymn, a beautiful person,” [regarding Sis. Marie].
BRO. TOM ROSS, OH (CGAF)— HYMN 388
About 30 years ago on a Sunday morning, a sister sang hymn 388 (it was 292 then), and I remember it was a beautiful piece of music and the more I looked at the words, the more I had a hard time believing so much about God and Jesus could be put into one song.
The words “We Shall Be Like Him” give a vision of how much God loves His creation of man and has made a way that those who love and obey Him can live forever. Our Heavenly Father proved the strength of His promise by raising Jesus from the grave, never more to die. Truly, “We Shall Be Like Him.”
My wife, Judy, and I were married almost 59 years, and wanting to be in the Kingdom was the focus of our lives. Along the way, our parents, grandparents and so many of our loved ones fell asleep, but we rejoice that we can be reunited with them, forever, with no more sin, sickness or death.
Every time I sing this hymn I am strengthened and encouraged to keep my faith strong. I think of this hymn even more now that my wife has fallen asleep. She had a great desire to wake up and be like him. No more pain or sorrow; even death will be no more. The words in this hymn tell the story of God’s love, and I want to be a part of that.
These responses and others we will share in coming issues, beautifully demonstrate the way our traditional hymns can support, strengthen and buoy us up through life’s hills and valleys. We look forward to sharing several more reflections on treasured hymns in upcoming issues of the Tidings.
And let’s keep the conversation going! This week, ask someone if they have a favorite hymn, and be prepared to share back yours. This is a great way to hear each other’s stories and be encouraged ourselves. Perhaps we’ll even learn a new hymn or two in the process!
Simi Hills, CA