The first notes of a familiar tune from the piano drifted
across the sanctuary. The choir filed in and took their places.
The song leader turned to the congregation and said “Please open your
hymnals to page number 693. Stand and join us in singing “The Old
Rugged Cross”. The Sunday morning Worship Service began.
In our quest for a traditional, conservative church, my
husband and I decided to visit a small church, of a different
denomination, not far from our home. As the congregation began to
sing, I experienced a sensation of profound elation. Feeling the
hymnal in my hands was like hugging an old friend that I hadn’t seen for
a very long time. How wonderful it felt!
As the service continued, we sang simple, sacred hymns
accompanied by the piano and choir. I thought about the difference
in this church's simple worship style and my own church. This
church has no high-tech gadgetry. It uses hymnals instead of words
projected onto a screen. It uses a piano instead of drums and
guitars. It has a small choir. There were no guitars or
drums. The congregation had a reverence conducive to worship
rather than an atmosphere of a frenzied, football halftime show. I
felt a great sadness as I realized my church had lost something very
precious in its turn towards non-denominational contemporary music.
As we sang, I reflected on the complete absence of
hymnals in my current church home. We did not sing anything
resembling a hymn that might be found in a hymnal. Hymns and hymnals had
disappeared and we sang modern, contemporary inter-denominational songs with
lyrics designed to make them more “appealing and understandable to the
This reminded me of the song leader in the church of my
teen years. He had no musical training, but he loved the Lord and
could carry a tune reasonably well. He had unique way of
introducing each song. For example he would say “Let’s stand and
sing hymn number 353, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Verse two
says "Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy great help I’ve come”.
The word Ebenezer means “stone of help” and it is the name of a stone
raised by Samuel to commemorate a victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh.
This is a hymn of praise for all the help God has given us.” It
was a great way to teach words and expressions that were unfamiliar to
us so the hymns became understandable. His smile and passion were
contagious. He was respectful and courteous and never tried to be
humorous by telling the congregation they had to smile and sing louder
or they would have to stand longer.
I also thought about the wonderful song leader we had in
Germany many years ago when my husband was active duty. Our large
American congregation was made up of young military members. Some
were single and some were married and had children. Our song
leader, Mrs. Conable, was a graduate of one of our church colleges.
She instilled a real appreciation of the sacred hymns by not only
leading the singing but teaching us a new hymn once a month. She
also gave a short explanation of hymns that contained unfamiliar words
or expressions. Her enthusiasm rubbed off us and we sang the hymns with
As I remembered these events, I began to wonder what type
of legacy is being left to the generations that follow us. Hymnals
are much more than a tool used for musical worship. The hymns
contained between those book covers define us. They reinforce and
reaffirm our denominational doctrine as well as our Christian theology.
We are losing our hymnal heritage at a great price.
Please don’t misunderstand me, dear visitor. I’m
not saying that a contemporary worship style is wrong. God can and
does work through many avenues. I’m just saying that a
conservative, traditional worship atmosphere is best for my spiritual
I also reflected on the
building itself. So many churches like the one we presently
attended, had multi-use facilities. Our large church had a room
that served as a sanctuary/fellowship hall/basketball court. This little
church had a separate room with a kitchen for fellowship meals.
A few minutes later, the pastor stood behind a wooden
pulpit and delivered a powerful message proclaiming the message of
Salvation and holiness while reading, and quoting from memory, many
scriptures throughout his sermon. As he gave his scripture
references, I was amazed at how many people had brought Bibles to church
and they followed along as he read each scripture. We were unable
to read our bibles at the church we attended because the lights were
lowered when the service began and they were kept dimmed until the
service was over.
As the service concluded with the beautiful hymn “I Know
Whom I Have Believed” my heart was overflowing with a deep peace and
tears welled up in my eyes. My husband took my hand and looked at
me. I could see that he felt the way I did. In its
simplicity, our spiritual needs were met. Everything about this small church surpassed the glitz of the large church we
Our quest had ended. We were home at last.