Having a say in songs we sing

Published September 1, 2004

Dear editor,
Do those elected to General Synod always represent the overall opinion of the average church member?

Apart from five years, I’ve spent my whole ministry service as a chaplain with the Missions to Seaman, now known as the Mission to Seafarers. Worldwide, it was a practice with most chaplains to conclude every worship service by kneeling and singing one verse of the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save (frequently referred to as the seafarers international anthem).

In the new Common Praise hymnbook, published with the approval of General Synod, I was astounded to find that the words of this hymn had been updated, obviously without reference to its history and usage.

I had occasion to preach at a Battle of the North Atlantic Service, sometime ago. The organist, a sensitive and far-seeing person, had a printout of the traditional version of Eternal Father distributed with the Order of Service. I lost count of the number of former seafarers in the congregation who commented unfavorably on the updated version in Common Praise. “Padre, why these changes?” Eternal Father used to unite seafarers all over the world. The same can be said of many other hymns, which unite believers all over the world where the text has been changed.

One gets the impression that decisions are being made at Synod, which do not always represent the average church person. Surely at the parochial level it ought to be possible to get the opinion of parishioners and then have these presented at Synod by the elected delegate. Synod decisions do not always represent the opinion of the average church member.

Joseph D. Parker
Penticton , B.C.


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