Many things have been hard about the interruption to our normal pattern of Christian worship over the last few months, but probably the one that I hear most frequently mentioned is not being able to sing together.
I completely agree. Congregational singing has been part of my life from as early as I can remember and few things are more uplifting or moving for me than being in a church full of people singing hymns. A formative influence in my early life was a milkman called Gwynn Jones, who used to sing the tenor parts of the hymns from the congregation from memory, every inch the Welshman. Whether it’s a small number gently singing a simple Taizé chant, or a Cathedral full of people singing ‘At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing’ on Easter Eve, not many things more reliably bring a tear to my eye than a group of ordinary people singing God’s praise together.
Community singing is an activity that exemplifies the truth that we are more, much more, together than we can possibly be apart. In church, when our hymns and songs are directed towards the praise of Almighty God, that sense of unity in diversity, has a spiritual dimension. It is what the church is, or should be, all about; the discovery that God’s love dissolves mutual hostility and allows us to discover our truest individual selves in relationship with God and one another.
Good news, then, that the recently completed study into the transmission of the Coronavirus by singing seems to suggest that it may be safe to resume congregational singing sooner than we feared. Congregational singing is still not permitted, but the signs are encouraging.
I sometimes get asked what my favourite hymn is. It changes, and has changed many times, and of course there are particular hymns that are best suited to seasons in the year and moments in the liturgy. ‘We Hail Thy Presence Glorious’ is probably my favourite Offertory Hymn, while ‘How Shall I Sing that Majesty’ takes some beating as a hymn of praise. ‘O Jesus I have Promised’ is a beautiful expression of Christian commitment, and ‘Just as I Am’ has a purity in its devotion that is hard to beat.
While we’re waiting to be allowed to sing together again, why not send me a note of your favourites?
May God bless you all,