05 November 2009

The Hazards of Hymns

Our church sings a lot of hymns. Many of them I had not heard before moving here, but have grown to love some of them, especially the more modern, newer ones by writers like Stuart Townend. However, we do sing some more traditional ones like "Be Thou My Vision, " which I have always loved.

Since coming here, however, I have realized that there is a big hazard with singing hymns. Apparently Scottish hymns are at times different than American hymns. As I was reminded on Sunday the words can change without any warning.

I was singing away "Be Thou My Vision" and we were on verse 2: "Be Thou my wisdon, be Thou my true word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father and I thy true heir - wait - what? I hear an American friend next to me belt out SON (how it's usually sung in America) while I grin and chuckle. Thank goodness I was looking at the words and didn't make that mistake. But you know what the Bible says, "Pride comes before the fall."

Verse 3 was totally unrecognizable:
"Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be Thou my armour and be Thou my might; Thou my soul's shelter and Thou my high tower; raise Thou me heav'nward, O Power of my power."

So by verse 4 I was excited we were back to something I knew. You know, didn't need the words for -- could actually worship and sing from the heart. Now I'm the one belting it out, "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise...." While everyone else sings: "Riches I heed not, nor all the world's praise." That'll stop the flow of worship real fast, and humble you too!

The moral of the story is, when singing in church here, it is best to ALWAYS look at the screen or songsheet. I guess two years of learning this hasn't been enough. Maybe I just keep hoping one day they'll use the words I know.

P.S. At the bottom of the songsheet it is written that the words we were singing are from a 1993 edition of the song, so I think it is one that has been "updated." That would make the "heir" part more politically correct and gender neutral. So for this particular song that must be the "problem."


Ronnica said...

I think it's interesting how much the words change to hymns over time. It's like everyone feels the need (sometimes rightly) to correct them here and there.

allison m said...

Hahaha! I love that story. I get so excited when I actually know on of the hymns but then soon realize the tune is different or the words have been changed. Thanks for sharing :)

Siân said...

So true - Hymns get me every Sunday! It's usually the music I've never heard of - the words do change though... Yes, we changed the versions of some old hymns to include the girlies too!!

Anonymous said...

so i was reading shaun your blog about the heir part. and shaun was like, "that's because they are trying to be politically correct and gender neutral about it"- sure enough! too funny. enjoy reading your posts!