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Choosing the Hymns

By Colin Gibson in All Sorts

with the help of weekly reflection and the intelligently–chosen hymns we grow spiritually

In this Connections article I want to pay tribute to all those worship leaders who, week after week, month after month, toil over their sermons so that we will have something that is
interesting relevant
amusing profound
engaging challenging
uplifting reassuring
to listen to.
Yes, I know it’s just part of the contract and the congregation’s presumption that the words and images that issue from the pulpit will be of a quantity and quality we seldom get from the public media these days—obsessed as they are with the ‘sound bite’, the snappy headline, the bikini-brief quote, the bullet points flashing out before our weary eyes.
But week after week, I am astonished by the listener-worthiness of what we hear in our church, as thoughtful, well-informed leaders lead us into fresh consideration of the interface—now there’s a fine,in- vogue word—between the inherited (yes, frequently biblical) past and the turbulent chaotic world of the present, finding meaning, challenging us to action, enriching our knowledge, deepening our spiritual life.
But if they deserve applause for their deeply-considered reflection, these worship leaders, spare a clap or two for their choice of hymns. Which, as you’ll see, is the subject of the cartoon Darren James supplied me with.

Yes, I know that we can be confounded by music or words we haven’t met before—it’s called the learning process—and because we all have a stock of hymn memories cemented into our brains by repetition when we were young and more open and receptive, the choice of a fresh, new hymn can freeze our vocal chords and distract our minds.
But consider the perils the worship leader must navigate in choosing the three or four hymns we are to sing. They are comically summarized in the cartoon, though one might add to the circles of rejection or reception the tunes we know or think we don’t know, as well as our own private and personal theology. What a wonder that every week we do sing—and with considerable vitality—songs that lift our spirits, resonate with our own and the preacher’s thought patterns, and confirm our sense of community.
And to our credit, we have got over the cultural cringe and our childhood fixations to tackle hymns made in New Zealand by New Zealand composers and text writers, dealing with New Zealand issues and New Zealand theologies, and expressed in the idioms and images of our own country.
We grow spiritually with the help of the hard-won weekly reflection and the intelligently–chosen hymns we sing to God’s glory. Long may that continue!
Colin Gibson