My late mum, Jean Parratt, used to give me Victorian hymn books. I was always surprised how many of the hymns I just didn’t know at all. Just as ordinary music evolves over time, so does church music. God is always doing a new thing and we don’t always like the new thing!
We’re all different and that includes our musical preferences, both inside and outside church. One way I connect with God inside and outside church is through singing. I recently discovered that the Holy Spirit connected me with Jesus via modern worship songs I didn’t even think I liked at the Family Service on the second Sunday of the month. This service used to be called JAM (Jesus and Me) but have no fear, it is still about Jesus and You/Me or so I discovered, to my surprise.
I thought that I didn’t like modern worship songs. I learned hymns at Farnham Girls’ Grammar School between 1969 and 1973 then at Farnham College for the following year. We didn’t go to church when I was young, so my main hymn knowledge is from school assemblies. I’m a bit of a traditionalist on the hymn front.
However, in March and in April 2022, I attended the Family Service at St. James’ Elstead, and I was very surprised to be moved strongly by the Holy Spirit on both occasions through singing the modern worship songs I thought didn’t work for me!
When I feel the Holy Spirit (as I interpret this and the sensation or experience may be a bit different for you or you may not feel this at all but feel a calm or comfort descend, perhaps) I feel a definite, pleasant physical sensation which seems to start in my brain, move down my neck and into my arms, leaving, I presume, safely through my fingertips. I have sometimes also felt this sensation in prayer with others or when hearing a Bible passage read, in other parts of the church service or when feeling unusually grateful to God for something also.
I didn’t expect this connection with God at all when I went into church that day. It was lovely. I can’t guarantee it will happen for you (isn’t grace so often something which arrives when we don’t expect it?) so you may also like to know that some other things I liked about the service were: –
- seeing young children and their parents in church, relaxing and enjoying being together in a place of faith. I especially liked seeing one young girl, aged about 4, playing in the pulpit. The pulpit is rarely occupied now most leading, and preaching is from the lectern, but I feel that Jesus would surely approve of a young child, behaving like a child, playing hide and seek in the pulpit. Children and adults can dance in the aisle or in their pews as the Spirit moves them. Long gone are the days when children were seen but not heard in church.
- seeing older congregation members there too, actively taking part. I counted 14 older congregation members who, like me, are past the first flush of youth by quite a few years- so they were more than one third of the total number of adults which impressed me- all ages are welcome at Family Services. We are all members of the church family and if we don’t see children in the services we attend, maybe we need to go to services where the children are.
- seeing young children in the chancel, sitting on the floor, comfortably, eagerly around Hannah while she taught them about prayer, using her fingers as reminders of who to pray for.
- knowing that many of the children attend St. James School, a Christian school, or will do in time and that their monthly visits to the Family Service may set them on the path of a lifelong Christian faith, their parents also providing them with a Christian upbringing, which, for various reasons, I did not have as a child.
I do understand that there has been so much change for so many of us, especially in the last few years, that it is hard to accept changes in church too. For many of us, the familiar comfort of a known liturgy we can recite by heart or hymns with familiar tunes are so important to our basic faith and security that any change can feel scary but please do take heart.
As the old hymn says, ‘Everything changes but God changes not’ and ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.’ (Hebrews 13.8)
Don’t hide at home on second Sundays. Seek a new connection with God at the Family Service. You might be as surprised as I was.