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John Wesley was one of the founders of the Methodist movement in the 18th century. His directions for hymn singing are still printed in the front of the United Methodist Hymnal. One of his instructions is to sing hymns “exactly as they are printed here.” Yet all too often, in United Methodist Churches and others, congregations sing only the first and last verse of each hymn, in order to save time.
In my opinion, this is so wrong. The hymns are there for a reason. The words, the music, the act of singing all have much to teach us, and we do not get the full impact by singing just the first and last verse. Also, I don’t think worshiping God should be kept on a schedule!
Here’s what John Wesley had to say about hymn singing in 1761. We would do well to follow these instructions in the 21st century (although I don’t think I’ve ever sung the songs of Satan).
Directions for Singing
- Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
- Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
- Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
- Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.
- Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
- Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
- Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
–John Wesley, from John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761
Okay, I’m a United Methodist. I have been for about 8 years now. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, though, and I didn’t leave the Catholic Church because of strong theological or philosophical differences. My husband was raised as a United Methodist, and has never been comfortable in a Catholic Mass, so when we finally decided we wanted to attend church together, I agreed to try the Methodist church.
The one in our area at the time (United Methodist Church of Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento), was awesome. They had a woman pastor (nonexistent in the Catholic church). She left soon after we started attending, but the next pastor was a woman also, and became a good friend. We formally joined the church. I still missed things about the Catholic church — the familiar hymns and rituals and the weekly Communion especially, but eventually the Methodist traditions became familiar as well.
Today, I took a quiz that I found through this blog entry, which was in my Tag Surfer today. It measures something called your “theological worldview.” I’m not sure how to define that. I was surprised, however, to find that I still scored primarily as a Roman Catholic! My second worldview is Emergent/Postmodern, which is more where I see myself these days — and really, the two go together a bit, because one characteristic of emergent/postmoderns is that they like getting back to the ancient rituals of the church.
My third worldview is Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan, which is the United Methodist part of my background. Apparently, however, the faith I was raised in still has a huge impact on my theology and practice.
The full results are below, along with a picture representing Roman Catholicism. Very formal. My husband, who scored fully emergent/postmodern, got a picture of Brian McLaren.
|What’s your theological worldview?
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|You scored as Roman CatholicYou are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.