A Good Hymn is Hard to Find

The parish Lenten Mission began tonight, and I got to the church a minute or so late for the start. The congregation was singing the opening hymn – what it was I have blessedly forgotten, but it was one of those carnival tunes of fairly recent vintage that we used to sing fairly regularly, not too long ago. As I ducked into a pew near the back, I was met by the distinct aroma of moth balls.

The presider was a retired bishop, who seemed to give a very thoughtful reflection (I had trouble hearing a lot of it), but the music we used all night was awful. I got to thinking that the moth balls I could smell were perhaps being used to preserve the 1970’s era pop-hymns we kept pulling out. It was actually rather discouraging.

I pray that enough people will get fed up with this kind of schmaltz before long, and the pop songs will go away. But as of now, this stuff feels like tradition to some of the older priests who’ve spent entire careers singing it – and some not-so-old ones as well. Alas, I might be sing-songing it for the rest of my earthly life. At least I can have confidence that, then, will be the end of it…

As we were preparing to leave, we were all invited to join in singing “City of God,” that ubiquitous hit hymn set to the tune of “Old Smokey” (or is it “On Top of Spaghetti?”):

We are sons of the morning,
All covered in cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.

Let us build the city of God…