Four years ago, in 2017, I set myself the task, which I completed, of reading through the Bible in a year. You can read my thoughts on each day’s section in the archives of my blog.
For 2021 I have set myself a different challenge, to sing my way through a hymn book. Why? Several people recently, in the media and in church sermons, have commented that the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving us of most opportunities to hear live music or participate in singing, has also deprived us of something essential to our humanity. Song, in its many forms, is at the heart of every culture.
It is particularly important in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition (with a few exceptions such as the Quakers who worship in silence). St Paul tells his readers to “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. This covers very succinctly the use of musical versions of the Psalms to express the full range of human emotions, settings of the creeds and liturgies of the church (hymns), and celebrating the love of God (spiritual songs). This was expressed more fully and very eloquently by the Revd Keith Fraser-Smith, in his sermon for the first Sunday of Christmas at Christ Church, Upper Armley in Leeds. You can watch it on the church’s Facebook page at https://tinyurl.com/y7op7wpw – start 13 minutes into the service for the sermon. Without these opportunities for collective worship in song, I have felt dissatisfied with my spiritual life in 2020.
So, for 2021, starting as it does with a continued and indefinite ban on congregational singing, I will at least sing one hymn or song per day at home, and I will share some brief thoughts on these in subsequent blog posts. Of the several hymn books on my shelf, I have chosen “Sing Praise” (published by Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd in 2010 – available from their website singpraise.hymnsam.co.uk ). It has a good range of new songs and hymns, many of which I haven’t tried yet, along with some old favourites, and about half of them are themed to the seasons of the church year as observed by Catholic and Anglican churches. The number in the book (329) is close enough to 365 to allow for a different hymn nearly every day.
The principles I have observed in fitting these 329 songs to the calendar for 2021 are as follows:
- A choice for every day from Sunday to Friday, plus Saturdays in Lent, Easter and Advent seasons (the remaining Saturdays will serve as catch-ups for the odd day that I may miss).
- Seasonally themed where possible
- Songs related directly to the Communion service are allocated to Sundays.
- Outside the named church seasons (in “ordinary time”) the remaining hymns are randomly allocated.
If you’ve read so far, I hope you can join me for the rest of the year as we sing our way through 2021.