John L. Bell is a Scottish hymn-writer and Church of Scotland minister serving the Iona Community off the western coast of Scotland. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak at several conferences and ordered his song collections for Highland, but perhaps most meaningful is his book, The Singing Thing–A Case for Congregational Song. Almost twice a week, I see articles on social media touting the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits from singing in a choir, being a musician, or playing a musical instrument but back in 2000 before social media, John Bell said it best when he wrote that churches should consider posting a warning in their sanctuaries:
Singing is not a neutral exercise.
Singing in worship with your faith community
informs and shapes what we believe.
Each week, we gather in Highland’s beautiful stone-walled sanctuary and lift our voices in song with our mighty Schantz pipe-organ supporting and guiding us. Last Sunday’s middle hymn was not well-known and we’ve only sung it once since adopting our hymnal in 2010—God of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. The text was written by Dr. Wesley Forbis in 2000 for Carson Newman College and speaks to the work of love and justice we do each week on our corner, in our city, and around the world:
God of beauty, truth, and goodness, Lord of wisdom yet unknown,
grant us strength to match the vision as we come before Your throne.
Stand for truth and cry for justice, share with those who don’t belong,
and remember as you serve them, sing for those who have no song.
Sing a joyful alleluia, praising God in all you do,
and remember as you witness, God is singing over you!
As our singing shapes worship each week with praise, confession, assurance, proclamation, and response, may our daily lives be filled with purpose and joy and with the comfort of knowing God is singing over you!