Sunday, 10 February 2013

Regular preacher, supply hymn

Today we sang "Rock of Ages", with our regular minister leading the service.

Okay, that won't mean anything to most of you. Let me explain. (No, there is too much. Let me sum up.) Rock of Ages is one of the "supply hymns", alongside such illustrious members as Blessed Assurance, Great is Thy Faithfulness, The Lord's My Shepherd, and the like.

When a church has a regular preacher (a full-time pastor/minister, for instance, or a roster among the elders), he will know which hymns and other songs the congregation knows, and can consciously expand the repertoire (for instance, today we sang Come People of the Risen King, which was introduced to us in exactly that way). But when he's away for just one week and somebody else fills in (referred to in Presbyterian churches as "supply preaching"), that somebody can't know the church's repertoire, so the safest option is to pick the old classic hymns that pretty much everyone knows. Traditional tunes, familiar words, easy and safe.

And yet those famous hymns are never sung any other time. (Well, hardly ever.) We have no shortage of beautiful and lovely music to sing to, and more is being written all the time - just look at Keith/Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend, Geoff Bullock, and many more (and I've added my own small contribution there). In any given church service, we'll sing four, maybe five songs; a year without any duplicates might involve a couple of hundred hymns at most. So many to choose from, so few to choose; and many of the "old favourites" aren't actually ideal to sing, for various reasons.

So the old hymns are ONLY sung when a visiting preacher selects them. Except today. Out of all the thousands of possible songs, it was one of the supply hymns that won the draft.

(Yeah, okay. It was more interesting in my head.)

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