Today I was grossly offended by a hymn that we sang at church. The hymn in question is titled “Happy are they, they that love God” and was written by Charles Coffin in 1736. The line that offended me was “Then shall they know, they that love him, how all their pain is good.” I was singing this song along with the rest of the congregation, but as we started to sing that line I stopped. I couldn’t sing it. All my pain is good? How could anyone write that?
I should explain at this point, that I suffer from M.E. and from chronic migraines. As such I have near constant pain that takes a great deal of effort to control so that I can live my life. I have no pretensions here; many many people suffer far more pain than I do and may be completely crippled by it. My pain is minor compared to those people, but is still greater than that of normal healthy people.
This bold statement that all my pain is good made me angry. More than that though, it led me to some serious thinking. How is pain good? Can any possible good resulting from pain cancel out the bad, to the point that I can say it was all good?
Continue reading “All my pain is good”
I often complain about the music in my church. Let me explain why.
The church I attend has an ageing congregation. It also has a choir made up of 15 or so people. It is a very serious choir. They take all their music seriously, sing it perfectly, and have robes and everything. Unfortunately most of the hymns that they sing were written in the 18th or 19th century. Very occasionally they sing something modern, by which they mean written after 1900.
Now, there are some very powerful hymns written in the last few centuries, the best of which are still sung in churches around the world today. Most of the hymns sung in our church, though, are at best obscure and at worst have no consistent tune, are completely unpredictable and are impossible to sing without being taught the tune and practicing extensively. I get the impression that the music is selected to allow the choir to show off their technical competency. In contrast, modern church music (And I include anything written since 1970 in this group!) is normally easy to learn, easy to remember, and (to me anyway) much more meaningful during worship.
But this brings me to an important question.
What is the purpose of church music?
Continue reading “Hymns old and, err, older.”