One of the “extracurricular” jobs that I have is directing my church choir. This is one of those jobs I do because I enjoy it. The choir works hard to learn new music and we strive to make a real contribution to the worship service.
In the process of leaning new songs and vigorously reprising old ones, we have a good time as well. It has always been my contention that you can’t sing if you don’t feel good about it. I realize that if I apply that assertion to some of the popular songs we hear on the radio, there are some very unhappy people in the music business.
Another philosophy I have about church music is that the lyrics, the words of the song, are just as important as the melody. However, a friend of mine recently pointed out to me that often the combination of our beautiful Southern accent and sometime non-linear individual phrasing results in a misunderstanding of what has been sung– particularly for the very young folks who don’t understand the meaning of the words anyway.
He pointed out to me some of his youthful assumptions as to the lyrics of well-known hymns of the church. For instance, some of the children wonder exactly what is the role of a cross-eyed bear in the church after listening to the lyrics of “Gladly the Cross I’d Bear”?
Additionally, there is really no mention of a slow-moving, twisted reptile, i.e., a “kinky turtle” in “Lead on , O King Eternal”.
There are some folks that I didn’t know were in the Bible who pop in in misinterpreted hymns. Why would Shirley Goodness want to follow me around for the rest of my life? Or that fellow Andy who walks and talks with me all the time?
Who is Irby in “God Will Take Care of You” as in the phrase “Be not dismayed what Irby tied; God will take care of you.”
“All Hail the Power of Jesus name, let angel’s prostrate fall” caused some consternation on the part of a small boy who didn’t know what a prostrate was but knew his uncle had a problem with his and it must be just as uncomfortable for the angels.
In one verse of “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” there is a phrase that says “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come.” I remember my old childhood confusion there. I wanted to raise my ebenezer with everybody else if I could just figure out what it was.
I also remember my grandmother every time we sing “How Firm a Foundation”. I wondered why we were singing about my grandmother’s undergarments at church. Knowing how modest my grandmother was, I couldn’t imagine her singing that song along with everybody else.
I have been told that when I was a very small child, my mother would bathe me several times a day. She was determined that I was to be clean. That ethic persisted through my youth. I had also witnessed the bloody procedure of a “hog killing”. In my child’s mind, hogs and lambs were similar farm animals. So, I could never understand the question asked when the congregation sang, “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb”.
Now that much of that childhood confusion is past, those other befuddled children and I sing those wonderful songs of the church and appreciate the real meanings. That doesn’t mean we don’s suppress a little chuckle once in a while when we remember our earlier interpretations.