Most of the hymns in a congregation's repertoire are sung a few times a year. That's the way it should be, I think, especially in an age when most folks don't read music and only hear our hymn tunes when they come to church. But there are some hymns that most every congregation sings well that they only sing once a year - such as "For All the Saints" every All Saints' Day. Oh, sure, it is sung at funerals, too, so some folks get an extra chance to sing it now and then, but it is basically a once-a-year event. Another hymn like this is "On Jordan's Bank", which most Lutherans sing every Second Sunday in Advent. That one goes pretty well, too.
This past Sunday we sang the "every Third Sunday of Easter" standard, "With High Delight Let Us Unite". This one doesn't soar quite as well with the assembly, but our congregation has learned to sing it. And I think they are enjoying it as much now as the choir, as it is a wonderful hymn. So it's a keeper. And this Sunday we'll sing "The King of Love My Shepherd Is", another once-a-year favorite. I bring this up so we can consider both the wisdom and the limitations of the "Hymn of the Day". Sometimes it really works, and a congregation's worship is strengthened with traditions like singing "My Song Is Love Unknown" each year on the 5th Sunday in Lent. And sometimes the "hymn of the day" that works is not necessarily the appointed one. At Bethany, for example, we have really embraced "No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet" for Palm/Passion Sunday. So it has become a sort of parochially-appointed Hymn of the Day, for lack of a better term. But other times, the appointed hymn just doesn't take root. "Christ is the World's Redeemer" for Seventh Sunday of Easter comes to mind. There are others.
What are your thoughts? Which hymns are strongly associated with particular days of the church year in your congregation? Which of the appointed ones, on the other hand, are not so successful. Are there any you've replaced and found greater success with? And are there some that work better at other times of the year or other parts of the service?
Whatever your thoughts, if you haven't considered these questions as part of your craft of worship planning, I humbly suggest your congregation would benefit from this kind of conversation about hymnody. I do hope to get a few responses - but I hope even more you'll talk to your people about how hymnody accompanies are walk with Christ through the Church Year.
Give Ear, O Zion, To God's Call - Written to the glory of God for the 150th anniversary of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Bonduel, WI under the anniversary theme: "To God Be the Glory--Yesterday...
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