The United Methodist Church of Enfield
Wednesday, July 08, 2020
Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.
 
 

 

 

July 9, 2020

 

To all God’s beloved in Enfield and beyond,

On my bookshelf at home is a small (4” x 2 ½”) leather-bound book. It’s the oldest book I own, published in 1840.  The title?  A Collection of Hymns for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Principally from the Collection of the Rev. John Wesley. No musical notes, just words.  People learned the tunes by singing the hymns. 

Singing praises to God has been an integral part of worship among Methodists since the days of the circuit riders and house churches, long before anyone constructed buildings dedicated to worship.  People carried around their hymnals – explaining the small size. “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” is the unofficial anthem of The United Methodist Church, and is the first hymn in every hymnal published by The UMC – even in the 1840 edition.   

John Wesley, who started the Methodist way of discipleship, thought singing so important in worship that he wrote “Directions for Singing,” first published in 1761.  Below is an abbreviated version: 

“Directions for Singing”

·         Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can.

·         Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.

·         Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

·         Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it.

·         Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature.

Yet we find ourselves in a time John Wesley never imagined – a time of a world-wide disease spread so easily from one person to another.  Studies have shown that the respiratory droplets emitted when we cough or sneeze – or sing – can transmit the disease much further and with greater force than speaking, remaining suspended in the air longer.

None of us, as Christians who read in the Bible “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26), want to bring harm to another person.  After all – we might be one of the super-spreaders of COVID-19 and not even know it!  So with concern for others foremost, and upon recommendation of our denomination as well as the scientific community, we will not be singing together in worship when we begin worshiping in the sanctuary again. 

We will praise God with all our hearts and minds and souls – but not with our bodies.  Or at least not with our mouths!  Our music director, Lynne Tracy-Thim, and I have come up with a variety of ways to make a joyful noise to the Lord (Psalm 100:1) in our worship services.  We’re excited about experiencing new ways to share together in offering praise and thanksgiving to God. 

Our worship of God does not depend on singing – for which I am thankful (and probably all of you as well if you’ve heard me sing).  It depends entirely on our intent, as Wesley noted in his final instruction: “Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature.”

Let’s aim to please God with what’s in our hearts and minds and souls when we worship – The Holy Spirit will fill in the blanks.  Thanks be to God!

Peace & grace,


Pastor Janet