Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 3 November 2018

Jen Williams A brave faith What Open Table means to me

Janet Fife Surviving Church Shibboleths and the Love of God

Giles Goddard ViaMedia.News C of E Risks Failure on Human Sexuality Because of Privileged Power

Church Times No action songs, please: there are adults present
“Services that infantilise are counter-productive, says Ines Hands”

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Father Ron Smith
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Janet Fife’s article is profoundly topical – in a time when many Evangelicals are questioning the ‘oughts and shoulds’ of the Christian way of life. Seminal is her paragraph here: “Early Celtic Christians used to speak of the ‘two books’ of God: the book of the Bible and the book of nature. Looking at the book of nature, we see how much God loves variety. There is a vast diversity in almost every natural thing we can think of, from snowflakes to Homo sapiens. God’s creation rejoices in distinctiveness and difference; only human industrial processes turn out identical items.” The… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
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Evan McWilliams

I’d like to expand on the article by ‘Ines Hands’ and suggest that action songs in the context of Sunday worship are equally as inappropriate for children as they are for adults. Particularly iniquitous are action songs the lyrics of which give wrong impressions about the nature of God. I’m especially irritated by ‘Our God is a Great Big God’ (which I suspect is the origin of the writer’s pseudonym) as it introduces concepts like size and location that then have later to be unpicked when we teach that God is omnipresent and transcendent. Start as you mean to go… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

I presume you do not affirm ‘The Lord is here’ in the liturgy then?

Evan McWilliams
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Evan McWilliams

I’m often tempted to respond, ‘Oh, no he isn’t!’

T Pott
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T Pott

Even the official response (in some liturgies anyway): “His Spirit is with us” can sound a very equivocal endorsement of the proposition.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Mervyn Stockwood when confronted by the Lord is here (which he didnt like) used to say The Lord is near.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Very much for us, the first hymn we learned was All Things Bright and Beautiful and I think it was a really positive first hymn

Mito
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Mito

‘The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate……..’

Shamus
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Shamus

Or “He’s got the whole world Ines Hands, the whole wide world Ines Hands”? I think my first hymn at school was “Immortal, invisible”. It didn’t matter that I had no idea what those two words meant, as it helped me to get a sense of the wonder of God, and encouraged me to find out what the words meant. It is a sadness that great hymnody is for the most part being lost to the young in many primary schools.

Evan McWilliams
Guest
Evan McWilliams

Lost, and it’s often our (I speak as clergy) fault. Things can only change if we start making different choices.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Not entirely, though substantially, clergy choices. Teachers in state schools don’t know trad hymns or tunes either. Hardly any play the piano. Might be different in fee paying sector, I wouldn’t know. For a vicar with two or three schools and no administrative help whatsoever, time spent teaching decent music is squeezed out The battle is indeed lost. Years ago I had some success with Cwm Rhondda at a rugby playing school, but rugby and risk averse primary schools? … I think not. Similar phenomenon on Remembrance Sunday. Very few know even Praise my soul. O valiant hearts (I like… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I am an elderly itinerant organist, having played mostly in small rural churches. I haven’t heard (or played) ‘O valiant hearts’ these past 20 years. ‘O God our help’, ‘I vow to Thee my country’, ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ and other traditional stalwarts were fairly standard alongside, usually, the National Anthem. Many clergy have changed the emphasis of the hymns for Remembrance Sunday – in one parish the first hymn was ‘We hail Thy presence glorious’ – and no National Anthem. This year we have ‘O God our help in ages past’, ‘For the healing of the nations’ –… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouseo
Guest

My colleague likes O god of earth and altar (King’s Lynn). So do I. But at the civic church, full church inc galleries, chain gang, uniforms, posh frocks, lots of cadets, rightly or wrongly I give them the trad stuff with some variation depending on which service takes the salute at the WM. The thing I find silliest is the protocol surrounding the Llord Lieutenant and the Mayor. It’s beyond ridiculous. A different discussion.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Many of Vaughan Williams’ hymn tunes are included in the US (RC) Adoremus Hymnal mentioned in an earlier post below, and are given regular airings in the Daily Mass on the Catholic satellite channel EWTN. Along with Down Ampney, etc., Kings Weston seems particularly popular. The words and the music of hymns are far more universal than people seem to realise.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The “Ship of Fools” “mystery worshipper” sometimes gets rather scabrous, and one of the most vicious was of a service at which the main focus, even of the sermon, was face-painting. By a strange coincidence I was present that morning (I promise, I did not write the piece) and although I thought it was rather a tedious service, it was well-intentioned. But it was, in general, infantilising: what it certainly did not have was any sense of the transcendent, or the still, or the ineffable. Ines Hands has it right.

Nick
Guest
Nick

I am not great fan of action songs, and I generally choose not to participate even though I have a small child. Having said that, there are services aimed at families (sometimes with action songs, and typically only at the start of the service) and others that are not aimed at families. I suspect across the CofE there are many many more “adult” services across a week, than “family services”. Perhaps, Ines Hands might like to choose to go to one of these, rather than denigrating the minority of services with a small portion of time allocated to children’s song.… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Finally, I find it perplexing that any self-respecting national publication would allow anyone to write in an anonymous, and therefore unaccountable way” So much for the Federalist Papers, then. And ironic, for someone blogging as “NIck”. That aside, do you think the long-running and excellent “Secret Footballer” column in the Guardian is unacceptable? Why? If a publication publishes something defamatory under an anonymous byline, the publication is no less liable than with a named author. They do not have to reveal the author’s identity (and may in fact not know it): the liability and accountability resides with the publisher, and… Read more »

Nick
Guest
Nick

A few things, which suggest the argument – in my view – is somewhat more nuanced than you suggest: (1) This is not a national journalistic publication, this is an internet bulletin board, and I do not hold myself out to have any special insight, I am writing in the comments section, (2) Nick is actually my name, and you can consistently engage with me, over time here, (3) You have the ability to respond to my comments, and I will respond back, I am not aware of any ability to comment on the Church Times website, (4) If you… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I never liked action songs even as a child. However, many children do enjoy them and many adults do too. Church ought to offer something for everyone; I have no right to deprive other people of something they find meaningful just because it isn’t to my taste.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Is there such a body as “The Campaign for Proper Hymns”?

John Waldsax
Guest
John Waldsax

Yes there is. The Hymn & Songwriters Foundation (https://www.jubilate.co.uk/page/Song_&_Hymn_Writers_Foundation ) was established to do precisely what you are looking for. Their mission is indeed to encourage singable songs and hymns, based on tested theology and suitable for congregational singing rather than performance songs for talented musicians but which are quite beyond most congregations.
Their current collection focusses on Remembrance and peace and will I believe feature in many services this coming week including several cathedrals.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

The problem, then, would be who decides what is a “proper” hymn? Is it determined by style? There are those who would rule out the great black spirituals then. Is it determined by age? Is anything less than 100 years old right out? Must it be only from the Anglican tradition? There goes “Ode to Joy” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” both of which more “properly” belong to the Lutheran Church.

You see the problem?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

With very slightly different words, those two hymns appear in the pioneering Australian hymnal “With One Voice” (1979 and 1982) which is subtitled “A hymn book for all the Churches” and, yes, it also includes some spirituals. The latest version of Hymns A&M “Hymns and songs for refreshing worship” (2013) has a similarly broad base, including worship songs, some of them from the later years of the 20th century. “With One Voice” was a specifically ecumenical hymn book (it also introduced a tentative use of some inclusive language), but most hymnals now in use cover a broad spectrum of traditions.… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

My question was not meant to suggest that such hymns were not “proper”; rather, it was meant to suggest that when we start talking about “proper” hymns (or for that matter, proper attire or even proper prayers), we risk elevating our own traditions above those of others of equal value. The best reaction I have ever heard to a hymn in my own quite middle-of-the-road Episcopalian church was when the choir did a very “rocking” version of a spiritual, complete with some nifty finger-snapping on the last verse.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I think we are slightly at cross-purposes. I didn’t take you to mean that those hymns were not “proper”. In fact I thought you were saying the opposite, with which I would entirely agree. My point is that the words and the music of hymns are already far more universal than is generally realised.

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

I should commend the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland, a fine organisation with an annual conference, and interesting journal, and a variety of members (although I am one of only two in Australia where we have no such society and where the Royal School of Church Music has to take hymns under its wings).

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I have only just come across this list of the proposed contents of The Revised English Hymnal planned for publication this year, although I haven’t heard of any announcement yet. It will be a weighty tome, but seems to have the widest selection yet. It’s worth skimming through to the very end: something for everyone, I would suggest.

http://englishhymnal.getfreehosting.co.uk/English_Hymnal/REH_Contents.html?i=1