By Ralphine Major
The day finally arrived when she added “hymns” to the lesson plan. Jewel Harris Atkins, my piano teacher, surely sensed the excitement she had created with the hymns. Scales and classical music pieces may have suffered through my week of practice; but I always had the hymns down pat! “Amazing Grace” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” were among the first. Her pencil marks in the hymnbook still show, though they have faded over time. Even at ten years old, I loved the hymns!
Sadly, the traditional church hymn seems to be almost disappearing in many of today’s worship services. In the seventies, the wonderful songwriting of Bill and Gloria Gaither was beginning to emerge. I always thought of Gaither music, such as “Because He Lives,” as the “new” hymns of our culture. I am a fan of some praise and worship songs in churches today. “Jesus, Messiah” and “How Great Is Our God” are inspirational in their own way. I am not sure, however, that many praise and worship songs carry the lasting impact of the simple hymns. Stories are often told about soldiers living through trying times in a foreign land and singing hymns that gave them encouragement and hope.
There is a reason hymns have lasted for decades. They are our heritage. Perhaps that is why so many artists continue to record “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Victory in Jesus.” Their lyrics are familiar, and the true-life stories that inspired them still inspire today. They touch our souls by causing us to remember happy times, touching times, even sad times. They bring comfort and joy. They lift us up.
My piano teacher once told me that the piano is the backbone of musical instruments. I believe the classic hymns are the backbone of Christian music. May we forever keep them in our hearts and in our homes and in our churches—always.
Words of Faith: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:30 (KJV)