Like most congregations, the church that I attend has our Sunday hymns projected onto the screen at the front of the building. This has been very helpful for several members who struggle with eyesight problems. But unlike some congregations, we’ve kept our hymnals in the pew as well. I always like to hold the hymnal in my hand and sing along that way—usually because the projected songs don’t have shape notes, which is the only way I can read music, but also so I can reflect on the words of the songs we’re singing.
On a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago I took the hymnal from the back of the pew in front of me in preparation for the opening of our corporate worship. Like always, I opened the hymnal to the correct song number, but something made me flip to the front of the book. There I found a memorial plate to a member of our church who had gone to be with his Lord many years before. My mind was flooded with memories of the man as I read the words, “This hymnal is given to Holland Street Church of Christ in loving memory of…” He was a good man, a good husband and father and grandfather, and he had lost his battle with heart disease suddenly. My brother, our minister, the worship leader/youth and family minister, and I stood around his hospital bed and sang hymns over him from these very hymnbooks as he passed from this life. I read the plate again and tears filled my eyes.