Can you name any one of the hymns that you sang at the last church service you attended? This was a question that suddenly popped into my head as I was preparing a report for our next District Council executive meeting. At the time I was deliberating about our next social event.  At which, I guarantee, hymn singing would not be involved.

I suspect your answer will be the same as mine. ‘I haven’t a clue’! But what is the purpose of hymns?

Obviously a hymn is a song of praise. Historically, when many people were illiterate they were popular secular songs of praise that were learnt by rote. Possibly used as a means of quietening the congregation at the start of worship.

In many cases they were easily understood, told a story and helped people to focus their attention on their link to God. For example ‘How Great Thou Art’ reminds us of the love of God revealed through creation.

Where you may be wondering (me included) is all this leading? I think the intention is to suggest to us that within the words of our hymns, if we take the time to consider them, there are hidden meanings that provide help, support and direction for us. 

As a speaker I use the hymn singing as a barometer of the service to come. Lack of enthusiasm in the hymn singing will often point to an absence of helpful vibrations to support the service. Whereas hymns enthusiastically sung signal a loving congregation passionate about the service to come. 

I digress! 

I am reminded of the hugely spiritual lady, Amy Kearns, who ran the first development circle that I sat with. A gentle soul who supported us all in our work, but woe betide the slacker!  From the same time in my journey of development I remember another ‘old style’ medium Donald Gill. He used to tell us, if you have no inspiration for your address, use the words of the hymn that’s just been sung. It will never let you down it acts as the catalyst and will always provide interesting words of teaching. 

So hymns are not just songs of praise. They are hidden gems of inspiration, help and support. They’ve just gone up in my estimation!

Minister Alan Rawnsley