I am about to break the code. Like a magician sharing the secret of his sleight or a fraternal brother divulging the distinctive nature of a handshake, I am about to break the code. I recognize that I may incur the wrath of every former and present pre-pubescent male…but…the time has come. This breach of sacred secrets is prompted by my need to make amends – on all our behalves – to the Ministers of Music who have frantically flailed their arms before us in an effort to get us to sing together. Well, here goes…
We ‘back pew boys’ have been massacring hymn lyrics for decades. Our parents have watched us from the choir loft. They have gleamed with pride as they observe our smiling faces projecting sound at the top of our lungs. In the communal roar of the congregation, however, they could not hear our specific voices and vocalizations…thank God…
What ‘back pew boy’ has not sung…(to the tune of At the Cross)
At the bar, at the bar, where I smoked my first cigar
And the fumes of smoke rolled away (rolled away).
It was there, by chance, that I tore my Sunday pants
And now I have to where them everyday.
Or…(to the tune of The Old Rugged Cross)
On a hill far away, stood an old Chevrolet
It’s tires were all tattered and torn.
But I loved that old car…(etc, etc…)
And of course, that popular Easter classic…(to the tune of Low in the Grave He Lay)
Up from the grave he arose
With a great big pickle in his nose…
(Settle down, it’s only the hymnal, not the Bible.)
And finally…(to the tune of Lead on, O King Eternal)
Lead on, O Kinky Turtle
(and I’m not sharing the rest of those lyrics…)
Last week, a telemarketer contacted me at the church office. He was selling video/sound systems for worship centers (his language, not mine.) I told him we leaned a little more liturgical and had no need for the system. He quickly countered, “Dr. Dant, these systems give us the ability to feel the Spirit of God without having to fumble with pages and papers. As choruses, scriptures and outlines are projected on one single screen, we can corporately focus on this fixed point and the Spirit is better able to unite us as a body. Any church interested in experiencing spiritual and numeric growth would welcome these tools and methods of ministry.”
I further explained that I have never been critical of such tools and methods; I refuse to take up arms in the worship wars. I truly believe that people experience God and express their love for God in a multitude of ways. I am happy that other churches offer these avenues of praise. However, our church has enjoyed an influx of new members over the last decade – most are young adults with young children seeking to reunite with the traditional rituals of the faith. I ended my comments by inviting him to attend one of our services and get a taste of our style of worship. His response? He told me he wasn’t particularly religious and had not attended church since he was a child. Hmmm…. At that moment, I think God shed a tear. I also believe God chuckles at ‘back pew boys’ who massacre hymns. God knows you’re only teased if you’re loved. I like God.
(Feel free to share your ‘best’ abuse of a hymn.)