Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Indeed?

I was invited to attend services at a church in the neighborhood by a friend of mine.  Inviting a friend to church is a lovely tradition here in the South.  As for me, I have always found that it does me good to hear Mass said now and again.  I'm playing golf tomorrow with the Senior Pastor of the Baptist church down the street tomorrow.  Haven't heard Bro. Randy preach yet but first things first. 

I really have been irregular in my church attendance for the past 6 months or so.  A nominal Methodist at my most fervent, I seem to have spent most of my recent Sundays here at home or off doing something else.  So I was pleased to receive the invitation if for no other reason than I had never set foot in this particular church.

Once I found my friend I sat down and scanned the program.  It was clear from the Order of Worship that this congregation is a little more evangelical than what I am used to and I am no fan of so-called "praise music." But it pleased me to be sitting with a friend at a different church on a beautiful Sunday morning.  And I looked forward to the service.

But what I really looked forward to was singing the first hymn which was the stately old Baptist(not Quaker as is it is widely misidentified)  hymn "My Life Flows On" otherwise known as "How Can I Keep From Singing?"  The hymn tune sprang immediately to my mind as I read the program.  After all, God knows I have sung them all. If you will pardon the expression.  But to paraphrase a very famous Methodist, my heart grew "strangely warm" as the pianist played the first bars. 

Hymns can have that effect on people.  And there is no accounting for taste in this area.  While there are any number of hymns that I love, my Mother's favorite was the dreadful "In The Garden."  Which alongside "Are Ye Able?" are two of the worst hymns in Christendom, much less the Methodist hymnal.  But I digress.  The congregation started the first verse.

"My life flows on in endless song,
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation."

Then came the refrain.  Draw near.

"No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?"

No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I'm clinging.  The word "inmost" is voiced with alternating half-steps while the word "calm" goes down a major third.  No where else but in the refrain are words set to music in such a declarative fashion.  Boy.  That's heavy stuff. 

Some folks have a mojo.  I have an inmost calm.  Or I did.  My friend Jennifer Imbro once told me, "You know what I like about you?  You're quiet."  It is good to be liked by the Jennifer Imbros of this world. 

But quiet ain't calm. 

Somewhere along the way I have lost my rock.  I need to find it again.  Or another one to replace the one that evidently has disappeared.

There are worst places to began the search than singing a wonderful old hymn with friends old and new as sunlight streamed through the stained glass. 

This is do-able.  After all, love is lord of heaven and earth.  How can I keep from singing? 

For some reason, Blogger won't let me upload youtube videos.  So I have attached a link to a performance of this wonderful old hymn by the Los Altos High School choir in Palo Alto, California.  The arrangement is not as tricked out as some I found.  And these kids really sing well. Here it is: 

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