Bishop’s Lunch Fellowship with Lay Leaders
Value of singing Methodist hymns
underscored by Bishop, leaders
Story by Peter Teo Methodist Message pictures by Daniel Lie
ARE METHODISTS IN SINGAPORE FORGETTING the importance of their Wesleyan hymns, or are they simply losing interest in singing them? Are they giving up the rich heritage and doctrinal value of the hymns for the “more lively” beat of the contemporary songs?
These were some of the concerns raised at the biannual Bishop’s Lunch Fellowship with Lay Leaders at Sophia Blackmore Hall, Methodist Centre, on April 2. Questions were asked and there was plenty of interaction after Bishop Dr Robert Solomon gave his presentation of “Wesleyan Hymnody”.
His talk was interspersed with a quiz, given in parts, in which stanzas of Wesleyan hymns were flashed on the screen for the lay leaders to guess the titles and sing.
The Bishop reminded the leaders that Wesleyan hymns are rich in doctrine and devotion, and are vehicles for teaching and nurturing the Wesleyan Christian faith as well as for worshipping in spirit and truth. The best way to discover Methodist spirituality is to know and sing the Wesleyan hymns.
The hymns express a range of conditions of the soul that need to be transformed: Unbelief; sin, guilt, disgrace); roving passions and a wandering soul; vile affections, including lust, pride, wrath, anger, hate, jealousy; rebelliousness and self-will; barren souls; physical infirmity; sorrow, tears, gloominess, grief, death; heart; doubt, fear, helplessness).
On the devotional depth of the hymns, the Bishop said: “Consider the worship of ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing’, or the spiritual struggle and surrender of ‘Come O Thou Traveller Unknown’.”
He pointed out that there is great poetry in the hymns, and as great poetry, they express sublime feelings in aesthetic language. In addition, they express the mission of the church.
Rearrange musical scores, contemporise hymns to ‘appeal to more people’
There is also great music in the hymns, he said. Some of the best loved hymns in Christian history came from the Wesleyan revival. Musically, they are classics. These hymns have blessed many congregations through many generations.
Mr Lee Han Khim, Lay Leader of Grace Methodist Church, feels it is important that “we know and sing our Methodist hymns because they are so meaningful and rich in Wesleyan doctrine”.
He said: “Many of the younger members in our churches may not enjoy singing hymns, but we have to educate them on the importance of singing hymns and treasuring their doctrinal values.
“We should include a repertoire of songs and choruses, in addition to the hymns, otherwise we will lose our youths and young adults. The challenge is to strike a fine balance so that neither the young nor the old will feel left out.”
Mr Yip Fook Yoon, Lay Leader of Trinity Methodist Church, said hymn singing poses no challenge to congregations in traditional services, but does not seem to appeal to those attending contemporary services, especially the younger ones.
“We must let the younger generation know the value of singing hymns, and encourage them to sing more hymns. Perhaps we may have to contemporise some hymns so that they will appeal to the younger set.”
Added Mr David Ong, of Wesley Methodist Church, who was commenting on behalf of his group after a discussion: “The musical scores of some of the hymns could be rearranged, and in doing so, let’s not neglect the musical accompaniment that goes with the hymns – there is so much richness in the trumpet, the organ, and so on.”
Mr Devaraj Daniel, Chairman of the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) of the Tamil Methodist Church, thinks it is a “great idea to contemporise some hymns and give them an upbeat tempo” to help draw the younger church members back to hymn singing.
“The challenge is to get the right people to do that. Perhaps, the Methodist School of Music can help in this task.”
Ms Teo Suet Ehr, LCEC Chairman of Geylang Chinese Methodist Church, asked: “Does the Methodist School of Music conduct any course to get the young people interested in singing hymns?
“We have introduced hymns in some contemporary services, but how do we get our young to appreciate hymns?”
Mr Goh Say Hong, Principal of the Methodist School of Music (MSM), who was invited to the fellowship because of the subject matter, said the Methodist denomination is “uniquely placed” to have a school totally dedicated to the study of music.
“The MSM is the only school in Singapore that trains church organists. Many denominations – the Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic and others – send their church organists to our school for training, but few of our own Methodist churches send theirs. Let me encourage you to get your churches to take advantage of the training and resources we have at our school.
“Our Methodist hymns have a social consciousness. To know more about them – who the songwriters are, why they wrote those hymns, and so on – it would be good to get a copy of the Companion Hymnal when you purchase a Methodist Hymnal. We need to make good use of our resources.”
Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.
“It is important that we know and sing our Methodist hymns because they are so meaningful and rich in Wesleyan doctrine. Many of the younger members in our churches may not enjoy singing hymns, but we have to educate them on the importance of singing hymns and treasuring their doctrinal values.
-- Mr Lee Han Khim, Lay Leader of Grace Methodist Church.
We must let the younger generation know the value of singing hymns, and encourage them to sing more hymns. Perhaps we may have to contemporise some hymns so that they will appeal to the younger set.”
-- Mr Yip Fook Yoon, Lay Leader of Trinity Methodist Church.
I think it is a great idea to contemporise some hymns and give them an upbeat tempo to help draw the younger church members back to hymn singing. The challenge is to get the right people to do that. Perhaps, the Methodist School of Music can help in this task.”
-- Mr Devaraj Daniel, Chairman of the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) of the Tamil Methodist Church.