I grew up singing, and loving "Southern Gospel Music." It was and continues to be a GLORIOUS heritage for me....songs that tell the stories of God's faithfulness, guidance, love, saving grace, and almighty power--and how we mere mortals have experienced it....GREAT, GREAT testimonies...
Somewhere along the way, I also fell in love with the rich hymnody of the English-speaking church. I'm not sure if it was my early college years, or my later college years...but somewhere in that time frame, I began this romance with the hymnal...and the "fires" are still burning!
While many congregations have "transitioned" into singing the "ditties" and the "jingles"...(or as one of my friends now calls them, the "7-11s"--seven words, 11 times each), some places (The Moody Church being one of them) still sings the great hymns of the Church....
No one can sing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" like the saints of The Moody Church (www.moodychurch.org). Every time we sing this wonderful song of praise and testimony, I am just about ready to bawl my eyes out....What a marvelous reflection of just how GREAT our GOD is....and it's all put to music.
The very first song I ever sang in public was one of the great "hymns" of the Church. My great-grandmother Branum (who died when she was 105 years old, in 1970) played a mandolin, and taught me these precious words, line-by-line:
"And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own..." I remember standing up on a piano stool in a small Pentecostal church when I was only 5 years old, and singing all three verses to "In the Garden..." Of course, I forgot many of the words to the third verse....but I have NEVER forgotten the fact that JESUS walks with me, and talks with me...And He still does! Praise His name!
And what greater song of victory and testimony can we find than these words,
"Long, my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night,
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light!
MY CHAINS fell off, my heart was free! I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!"
And the most lovely words in the English language---from the anointed pen of Isaac Watts:
"When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died!
My richest gains, I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride!"
More than 23 years ago, my friend Michael Cork (who was then Minister of Music at Denver First Church of the Nazarene) gave me a "hymnal to use" in my devotions. He told me to keep it, since the local church was planning to buy new ones anyway.
I LOVE THAT HYMNAL. That sacred book has followed me all over the world. Next to my Bible, it is probably the book I read the most...and sometimes even more than my Bible...
I am thankful for the great HYMNS of the Church. My heart will keep singing them!