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Songs Through the Centuries: The Power of Hymns

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When we arrived in our current pastoral call, one of the pleasant surprises my wife and I discovered was a Manse where we could host large groups of people, with a living room that could accommodate our two grand pianos without breaking a sweat. We suspected this might lead to some joyful experiences, and our suspicions were confirmed! Once again we learned the power of hymns when we offered to host the Spring party for our choir. The First Pres choir is uncommonly dedicated—followers of Jesus who find great joy, personal fulfillment, and rewarding ministry in making music well. Twice a year we get together to share fellowship unhindered by a rehearsal schedule or a liturgical deadline.

As we’ve learned to expect in this over-committed metropolitan area, not everyone could make it on any given night. But on this night, with a majority of choir members and their spouses, we had a house full. Our dining room table was filled with appetizers and desserts brought by our guests. A delightfully warm Spring evening enticed people into conversations both inside the house and on the deck. The food and the fellowship alone would have made it a good event—but then the magic began.

The Power of Hymns – Musical Ebenezers

Our Director of Worship and Music sat down at one of the pianos and began to play. Gradually, people drifted into the living room. Conversations became quieter. The music began to take central focus. One by one, people began to call out hymns. I soon joined in at the other piano, and for the next hour we sang: older and newer, gospel and traditional, some unison, some parts, most without a note of music—we sang. Unity of mind, heart, and spirit; community, an inextricable connection between music and faith—all were very real.

But the sharing didn’t stop with the singing. One man who, at the moment, seemed to be ahead in his battle with a relentless form of cancer, remarked how wonderful it was to be able to sing with strength again after much physical struggle. A woman was brought to tears when we happened to sing a hymn that had been sung at the service for her miscarried baby a few years before. Koinonia was strengthened when stories transformed hymns into musical ebenezers.