Going to church as a family every Sunday was an unquestioned event during my childhood years. My mother was a PK–preacher’s kid–and my dad was clearly her partner in the pursuit of religious education. I didn’t grow up in a doctrinaire household. Owing to my father’s career in the U.S. Air Force, we were frequently uprooted, relocated, and re-churched. In addition to worshiping as generic Protestants in non-denominational military chapels, we were from time to time exposed to Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and Methodist persuasions. I received much of my personal theology as a child from a subscription to the Unity School of Christianity magazine for children, Wee Wisdom.
Out of this eclectic launch, I landed as an adult in the Presbyterian Church–that is, a congregation connected to the PCUSA branch. I’ve been a regular church-goer there for almost fifty years. I’m almost up to speed on the theology and polity of Presbyterians.
From personal experience, I can affirm, as the polls and pundits are telling us, that the church is changing: my church, and more broadly, the concept of “going to church” itself. Nobody wants those stone walls and stained glass windows to confine their “spirituality” anymore. Fine.
But here’s my little secret: sometimes I wish things at my church would stay a little more the same, especially from one week to the next at the hour of worship.
Gone are the thoughtful hymns I learned in every denomination. Gone are the community prayers (other than The Lord’s Prayer) found in a Book of Common Worship. Gone are the majestic anthems and the uplifting drama of ancient liturgy.
Every week at church, it’s something new and exciting. Sigh.
I’ve written a number of “old style” hymns, three of them published. The one below seems pertinent to my current anxiety for the world. If you are familiar with the index of tunes and the metrical index in the back of many hymnals, you can sing it with me.
HYMN FOR A TIME OF HEALING
Tears of Hagar in the desert
down the ages fall like rain,
Calling us to feed the hungry,
hear the outcast’s cry of pain.
Let us turn from righteous anger,
ancient hatred, errant blame,
Humbly seek eternal healing
for our blindness and our shame.
Towers of human strength and knowledge
topple from their fragile height,
While compassion, hope, and courage
rise in mystery and might.
Put aside the sword of vengeance,
seek for justice to prevail,
Set our minds on God whose purpose,
love, and mercy never fail.
God beyond our understanding
whose all-knowing heart we break,
You alone can recreate us,
all our shattered lives remake.
Lift us from the dust and ashes,
grant us pardon and release,
Reunite our human family,
guide us to a land of peace.
Barbara Kunz Loots
Meter: 184.108.40.206D eg. Beach Spring