We open ourselves within community to the grace, beauty, and wonder of our faith
Plymouth Choir in Worship on May 22, 2011
"Why Do We Sing Old Hymns?" by Emilie Aubert
Why do we continue to sing old, traditional hymns in Sunday worship? This question is asked often, probably unspoken more frequently than spoken. Having grown up in the UCC my entire life, I love the old hymns. They are a part of that which has made me the person I am today. So singing the old hymns feels right to me, a preservation of the past.
Reasons for singing the old hymns, other than tradition, are numerous. Many of the traditional hymns are musical jewels. They are set to tunes that are classical masterpieces, many of which were composed during the 16th through 19th centuries, music by great composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Haydn, and Purcell. In addition to being based in classical scores, the music for many traditional hymns comes from African-American spirituals and rich folk songs from diverse world cultures.
Another reason we cherish and sing the old songs is because the lyrics have meaningful histories surrounding their writing. The words of some hymns are translations of individual Psalms or are based in other scripture. The theology is sound and fundamental to many of our personal theologies and religious traditions. Some lyrics document certain historical events such as the Reformation. Others document personal history for the lyricist, often written during times of tragic circumstances, when the song-writer or poet was sustained by his or her faith (It Is Well With My Soul). If you look through our hymnal, you will also recognize the names of numerous theologians (Harry Emerson Fosdick, God of Grace and God of Glory) and accomplished poets and writers (Christina Rossetti, John Greenleaf Whittier).
Perhaps the most important and most compelling reason we continue to sing and cherish the old, traditional hymns, is this. We sing these songs because of all those who came before us. That “great cloud of witnesses” who first sang these songs and sang them across the centuries.
We sing these songs, in the words of William How, “For all the saints who from their labors rest”. The body of Christ, the Church, stretches across centuries, and we are in communion with and are sustained by all those saints whose faithfulness has perpetuated the Church of Jesus Christ.
Why do we sing the old hymns? We sing these meaningful words and beautiful melodies because all the saints sang them. We sing these hymns because of and for this great cloud of witnesses.
Bridget Flad's sermon on "Remembering Your Baptism"
Andrew Warner's sermon on "The Mystery of Communion."