If we are going to sing long hymns

… as I advocated in my previous post, we are going to have a couple of problems.

First, it will lead to longer church services. Which, to be perfectly frank, isn’t a problem at all, but a good thing. There are 168 hours in a week, most of which we spend working, sleeping, eating, drinking and washing. Being very busy. So setting aside more time for church must only be a good thing. At least Martin thinks so.

Secondly, and this is a real problem, people are going to get tired of singing. I don’t mean bored. Tired. Singing is a physical activity, and like all physical activities, it requires stamina. Most people don’t get that much practice at singing these days—I’ve heard anecdotal claims that it’s mostly football fans and Christians who do any singing in today’s Britain—and so they aren’t particularly fit. As a result, if you ask them to sing for ten, fifteen minutes without a break, their voices will get very tired. And when that happens, the spiritual benefit will also begin to be lost, because the pain and the fatigue will start to take over the singers’ attention. It’s like going for a jog in the mountains: when your lungs hurt and you can taste the blood in your mouth, the scenery won’t be quite so beguiling. And this second problem needs to be taken seriously. So here are a couple of suggestions for dealing with it on a Sunday morning:

  1. Alternate between the congregation and other singers.
    Have the congregation sing some of the stanzas (always the first and the last!), but give some of the other stanzas to the choir,  to a soloist, to the Sunday school. That way, there will be a breather. It’s also benefitial to listen to a hymn with the words in front of you.
  2. Alternate within the congregation.
    Split the congregation into sections and assign different stanzas to different sections: men/women, adults/children, gospel side/epistle side, etc. The benefits are the same as above. And when everyone joins in for say, stanzas 7, 14 and 21, the sudden increase in volume will give them extra oomph.
  3. Split the hymn.
    Sing some of the stanzas in one part of the service, the rest later on. For example, the offertory hymn could continue as the communion hymn, the hymn of invocation could be finished off as the sending hymn, or as a gradual hymn. There are plenty of possible permutations.

These are just some ideas. There are others, depending on the resources available to your congregation. The real point is this: there is no reason not to sing long hymns, and there are lots of good reasons to sing them!

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