Growing up, a rarity for our family was missing a church service. Unless we were on vacation (and, even then, we went to church sometimes in whatever town we happened to be in) or a blizzard was upon us, we went to church every Sunday. There was no real questioning of it; we just went as a family.
Although we had the latest green Lutheran hymnal in our church, the hymns never really changed, mostly the liturgy did. Many of the songs we sang repeated during a given year, because a familiar hymn was always sung a little louder and seemed to make people a little more joyous as they left the service. Those familiar hymns are deeply embedded in my memory, including some of the old-time German voices which rang out in their unique style.
In many of today’s churches, the hymnal is rarely used. Although there is nothing wrong with this, those hymns pressed into the memories of many people for the past hundred years will begin to fade in this generation.
During Easter service yesterday, one of the old-time hymns was sung, and the embedded memory springs to life. Singing one of those old hymns just wraps your soul with comfort. Maybe it’s just the familiarity of the song or the reminder of God’s constant presence throughout those years which embraces us. The sounds, words, and melody of those hymns spark the memories of a childhood grounded in a solid community of caring, give-what-you-can, and work-hard-everyday-but-Sunday people.
Thankfully, some of the current voices may keep some of the old hymns alive. Patty Griffin recently released a new CD entitled Downtown Church. Her voice brings to life one of those old hymns. Listen to the sounds of All Creatures Of Our God And King and see if it sparks any memories or creates new ones for you.