A significant part of a church musician’s life deals with music and text. Perhaps if you are only an organist, you have fewer “words” in your professional life, but if you are involved with choirs – or hymn playing – it’s music and text, a very rich combination.

During the singing of a hymn it pains me to see someone in the congregation not holding the hymnal just because he or she cannot sing well. What about – – – – – the text? Those meaningful words are still there to enrich your faith, even if you are physically unable to sing. Last Sunday, the second stanza of the Hymn of Devotion (Hymn 522 – “Lord, When I Came Into This Life”) read as follows:

Within the circle of the faith
As member of Your cast,
I take my place with all the saints
Of future, present, past.


Anyone who left the hymnal in the pew rack for that hymn missed a big message, especially on a day when we commemorated “All the Saints.”

Here’s another great stanza:

Wild and lone the prophet’s voice
Echoes through the desert still,
Calling us to make a choice,
Bidding us to do God’s will:
“Turn from sin and be baptized;
Cleanse your heart and mind and soul.
Quitting all the sins you prized,
Yield your life to God’s control.
(Hymn 409)

If you are present for the singing of that hymn during the prophetic season of Advent or during our service of Baptism on December 4, you will want to have the hymnal open in your hands so that you can be fully engaged in those inspiring words.

Another stanza by one of my favorite hymn writers, Fred Pratt Green:

The church of Christ in every age,
Beset by change but Spirit led,
Must claim and test its heritage
And keep on rising from the dead.
(Hymn 421)

Hold on to that hymnal – don’t let the music or the text pass you by. Powerful words – it would be a shame not to know what so many people around us are singing about.

By Bob Gallagher, Minister of Music