Wednesday, May 23, 2007

OLD HYMNS-OLD PEOPLE

I remember as a kid, the age of about 4 or 5, being in my old church, looking over at a very very elderly man sitting next to me as the congregation sang "The Old Rugged Cross". I remember watching him as he sang, somehow it seemed as though he understood. He understood the story of the old rugged cross. I did not know who he was or even if I ever saw him again but just looking at that old man and hearing that song for the first time made an impression on me as a small child. Generations apart, yet as a child I marveled at him and remembered the words to that old song.

I also will never forget Dorothy Cleveland. Always smiling. I was told she was born on a missionary trail in Africa. I never once saw that lady open up a hymn book but she sang every word of every song. I always wondered about that. Mrs. Cleveland used to look across the room during the service and give me the biggest smile. I knew that there was one person who looked right through me and loved the person deep inside regardless of my childish faults.

It was a small church but every Wednesday night we would gather. Kids and adults. The elderly and the very young. We gathered for prayer. We sang the old hymns. I wasn't ushered off to some children's program. I was there with these old people. I know it was boring, I know kids can't relate to that, I know I would wander off into la la land and would become totally bored with church and when I get older I will have no interest in God because of those old songs that don't relate to the youth and the boring speakers, you know how we MUST BE RELEVANT etc...blah blah blah. You've heard it all before. We've all heard it all before by the experts. However, somehow something stuck. As a child I witnessed a faithfulness to God in the elderly

I know there is nothing inherently sacred with old hymns. It's not really about the hymns. It's more about a truth which transcends generations. A truth which unites generations. The songs that I saw Dorthody Cleveland sing without ever opening a hymn book were the same songs that I was learning as a child. It was the same songs that my mother and father were singing. It was the same songs that Dorthothy Cleveland's parents and grandparents were singing as she looked up at them as a child, studying their faces the same I had done when I was a child. There was a heritage. There was a legacy.

I can't understand what we are doing. Why are we so eager to get rid of the hymns which have lasted from generation to generation to generation? Aren't we supposed to get rid of the things which are a hinderance to our faith being built up? I guess our leaders know better.

Also, I have to wonder, why are we so sure that we have to separate the old people from the young ? For crying out loud, isn't there any value in our young children and teenagers being in the same room as the older people ? Do we think it's right to just throw out the value and spiritual wisdom and stability the kids can learn from being with, worshiping with, even participating in bible studies with the elderly ?

Some of my fondest memories as a child learning about this marvelous faith in Christ was the interaction I had with the elderly. Some of the richest and most spiritual acts of faith I saw demonstrated as a child were manifested in the character and actions of the elderly.

I learned from them. I sat listening to them, silent. I sat there and did not say a word. I listened. I learned. I remembered.

"Blest Be the Ties That Bind"...every Wednesday night, as we ended our prayer meeting, we would all hold hands in one big circle and sing that old hymn. I look forward to that day when we will sing that song again together, the old and the young...as one.

"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again."

7 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

Kenny, I'm sure by now you've picked up on the fact that you and I tend to disagree on a lot of this stuff - but I would be a real jerk if I only posted when I disagreed with you, so just let me say I really liked and appreciated what you had to say in this post.

I grew up in an old country church in Kentucky and had really similar experiences.

The church I go to now, (which does some stuff you probably wouldn't like - but a lot of stuff you would, I think) has, on occassion, tried to work some of those old hymns in with the more current stuff. I enjoy it because it feels like an acknowledgement of our roots.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Kennyo said...

Thanks for the comments Patrick

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Rita said...

Precious memories - how they linger! Those hymns and the saints who taught them to me as a little girl are forever cherished. The elders of my little town church laid a solid foundation in the Word of God and the hymns of old. That foundation has kept me through the trials of life and only now can I truly appreciate what was being sown as I thank God daily for keeping my family from the apostasy so rampant today.

I ache for the youth of today who've never held the hand of an elder saint who's been down the road - so full of love and wisdom.

God have mercy on our children!

8:23 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I believe many love the theology just not the tempo.

One of my favorite songs we do is "Jesus Paid It All"...an old hymn put to some modern music but then we end as a traditional hymn without music.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rita,
Your most valid point about the youth who have never held the hand of an elder who has been down the road - so full of love and wisdom ..is I believe the most damaging non -action of the church because from this action of non-action the natural reponse is rebellion in the youth. Many different forms of rebellion will surface when Men and Women of God in the church do not take action. Just like a baby needs his parents so do the youth need the elders . The elders should be totally involved in everything in the church. I would go further and say that the elders in the Church also need to correct ,discipline , confront, sacrafice there own desires to set an example to the youth , be set apart so that the youth can see a difference between them and the world, the Bible is clear about these points . Real men who are not timid to take the leadership that God has given them and run with it is what the church needs.
I thank God that I have Men that I can even now look up to and ask questions and when needed to submit under their leadership.
This is what the church needs .
The elders of the church need to take back the authority and not wait until the youth and the young adults do it . They may never .
Rita , good word,
Mike O.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Lin said...

Ken, We must have gone to the same church as kids! :o)

My mom was the musician so I was weaned on the hymns.

Your description of the old people was spot on. I can remember one old guy at my childhood church who misted up every time they sang Old Rugged Cross. He would try to wipe his eyes with his hankerchief without anyone seeing.

I asked my mom why he cried each time and she said, 'Some of us have been forgiven for so much that we love Jesus all the more and we are just overcome when we sing about that cross'.

I never forgot that.

BTW: I am now at a church with lots of old people. I love it!! I just wrote something about this on my blog, too!

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Rita said...

Mike,

I wholeheartedly agree. I do believe that what is happening now is the direct result of church pastors, teachers, and elders relinquishing the mandate to rule well!

"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." 1 Timothy 5:17

"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

Several years ago my husband and I questioned the direction of the "youth ministry" at the church we were attending when I passed the sanctuary and heard awful sounds coming from inside. When I asked the youth pastor what was going on, he told me they were having a "belching" contest. They were standing behind the pulpit using the microphone and belching! I was mortified.

This was the Wednesday evening service! We adults were sent to classrooms so the youth could have use of the sanctuary and sound system. When we commented about this type of behavior, we we were dismissed as being "legalistic" and out of touch with the fact that the youth needed to have more fun.

I suppose the correction I would have received for such behavior would be considered "abuse" today!

I thank Almighty God for the instruction in righteousness I received as a child because now I am old and I have not departed.

Praise the Name of the Lord!
Rita

3:51 PM  

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