Written by:
Rori Blakeney (SEJ)

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Singing Your Way Through The Year

by Rori Blakeney

The refrain from the hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow is almost a response to a question.  Perhaps the question is, “why sing?”

The writer responds:

“I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me, He watches me
His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me, He watches me
He watches me, I never thought, He watches me”

Have you ever considered why we sing and what the words truly mean?

Singing is both biblical and Wesleyan.  It is often said, if you want to know what a person believes, listen to what they sing.  Singing the hymns of the church teach the church’s theology while providing a variety of authentic expressions.  They also address social issues.  Importantly, singing hymns provides an opportunity for the congregation to unite across the generations. Hymns are not static, but fluid because tradition readily accepts new contributions. And, yes, hymns naturally provide a way to move through the liturgical year.

As you continue your year of spiritual formation, venture into new territory.  Select some unfamiliar hymns or songs to teach and learn.  Perhaps as you study Exodus, consider exploring the spiritual "Go Down Moses."  “Wade in the Water” is an excellent song to use to talk about baptism.  Sing “Let Us Break Bread Together” the next time you serve communion.  Carl Thomas Gladstone (one of our own YPM staff and all around awesome musician) has a cd you should check out: Protest Songs for a Better World, Volume I.

Singing can unite us amid our difference.  Learning the liturgical year through culturally appropriate music can enrich our spiritual lives.  Finally, Wesley offers some helpful tips for singing any and all hymns.

Wesley’s Directions for Singing

  1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
  2. 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.
  3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  4. Sing lustily and with a 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, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 too 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.
  7. 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.