God’s Beautiful and Familiar Music- Reflections on TCC’s Hymn Sing by Roberta LaHue Brown and Carla Nilsen
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the church’s unveiling of our new hymnal: Community of Christ Sings. In celebration of that anniversary, we gathered together for worship. Erik and Carla Nilsen led us in a variation on the traditional ‘song and testimony’ service, a style of worship very familiar to our faith tradition. For the testimony sharing portion of the service, Erik guided the congregation in a time of introspection and guided reflection. Asking the congregation to leaf through our ‘new’ hymnal, he asked us to find a hymn that spoke particularly to us or carried with it a memory or testimony of God in our lives.
As I leafed through the hymnal, looking for a hymn that might spark a testimony, I found myself remembering the first time I ever leafed through a hymnal. It was just before I was baptized during the summer that I was eight years old. I was sitting at a family church camp, being asked by my mom to help plan my baptismal service by selecting my favorite hymns. These hymns would be sung by those participating with me, through their singing, as I stepped into the waters of baptism.
There were three hymns that I chose that day, each of them with special meaning to me then, and now. As I sat in church yesterday, and remembered that first action as a member, the participation of planning a worship and sacrament, I wondered if that first action influenced my passions in the life of my congregation today. As a member of our congregation’s pastorate team, I am the community’s worship facilitator. In this role, I often find myself leafing through the hymnal, planning and presiding for worships. During this time of devotion I am listening and discerning for God’s voice to speak to me from those hymnal pages, guiding me to decision and action, and watching and participating in God’s unveiling story through our time together in worship. God’s voice always resounds through those familiar and new tunes and guides this Community of Christ to passion and action.
As I leafed through our new blue-covered hymnal on Sunday, I reflected on our congregation’s and church’s life and how many changes there have been over the decades. Our hymnal is so symbolic of our story. The book binding on the hymnal has changed over the years, some songs are sung through the decades without change or variation, other songs have lost favor and become obsolete, yet new ones are written and sung for the first time,. With these changes, the spirit of the hymnal is still the same. The music continues to enliven us and our awareness of God’s presence and call to mission. I think of how these same things are true with our church. The times and the context of our church’s story is also changing. Our understanding of God’s message takes a different shape, yet the message and the ‘familiar tune’ are the same. As we move forward in the world and life of our church, I hope we continue to find new and different ways to bring forth God’s message. I pray that the tune not only be heard by our own hearts, but also by the hearts of others, so that all may hear God’s beautiful and familiar music. By Roberta LaHue Brown
Thanks Roberta for sharing your testimony about what the hymns and the hymnal mean to you. I really appreciated hearing what you and others shared about their favorite new hymns, thanks TCC. The words to many of the new hymns are so amazing! I chose one that I’d like to learn, it’s # 324 and the 1st verse says, “We need each other’s voice to sing the songs our hearts would raise to set the whole world echoing with one great hymn of praise. We blend our voices to complete the melody that starts with God who sets and keeps the beat that stirs our loving hearts.” I have always loved singing hymns in the Community of Christ and especially at TCC. We sing with gusto and enthusiasm for the beliefs we share. We believe what we sing and we sing what we believe. (taken from the Foreword of our hymnal)
I also felt surrounded by love and God’s peace as we gathered together to offer a prayer of administration for our friend and brother, Laird. His faith and intelligence and commitment inspire me!
It was a joy to plan a “Hymn Sing”. I love the new hymnal and look forward to singing many more new and old songs from it at TCC. By Carla Nilsen