If you’d been driving up the A690 at about 10pm on Wednesday night, and you’d driven up alongside a little white Chevy (before inevitably overtaking it), you’d have heard a song belted out with unlikely enthusiasm.
“LORD, I give you my hearrrrrt, I give you my sooouul…
I live for YOU ALONE!”
It’s not a particular favourite of mine, it’s now 20 years old and contains eight lines of perhaps averagely inspiring lyrics. But they were eight lines I could remember by heart and they were the eight lines that came to mind on that one of my many journeys on the A690. They were eight lines so familiar that I was transported back to intimate times of worship alone in my childhood bedroom, and to the fresh excitement of youth services in a glow-stick-lit and bean-bag-furnished church.
Those eight lines freed me to worship at the top of my voice, uninhibited and unselfconsciously.
And I’ve discovered over the last month that this is something I need; it’s a really important part of my spirituality. It’s part of the way God has made me: an expressive and loud worshipper. A spontaneous worshipper. An exuberant worshipper. An emotional worshipper. A hands-raised, eyes-closed, foot-stamping worshipper. A kneel-in-wonder, shout-in-praise worshipper.
Each morning, and each evening, we sing a thing called an Office Hymn – not a concept I’d come across before starting this placement. They come in a little green book called The English Hymnal, and the books tell you when you’re meant to sing each one – Wednesday morning, or Friday evening for instance, or on a particular saint’s day. The book was first published in 1924, but each hymn is also marked with which century it comes from. The seventh century seems to have been a particularly prolific period.
At first I could barely make out the words, let alone follow any kind of tune or rhythm – I’ve since discovered that’s a feature of plainsong. A few weeks in, there’s a growing familiarity to the rise and fall of the notes, and I’m no longer surprised at singing to ‘God the Holy Paraclete’. These hymns are a soft and comforting way to start a 7.30am morning prayer service. And I’m growing to love the special sense of connectedness to Christians who went before me centuries ago as I worship as they did.
But alone, they’re not enough for me, they can’t be the entirety of my worship.
And a very helpful session on spirituality at the beginning of the placement reminded me that it’s okay – even good – to know what I need to keep me aware of a close, intimate relationship with God. To say I need something else too isn’t to belittle what others find most helpful, nor to close myself off from discovering value in those practices which I wouldn’t have known as part of my own tradition.
Our God is endlessly creative in the ways he’s made us and wired us, and endless diversity in the ways we worship is just one expression of that.
So here’s the ask.
As previously noted, I probably spend as much time in my car as I do in church now – and I want to take those opportunities to worship with the familiarity and comfort that comes from singing worship songs at the very top of my voice.
But I could do with a little help. So if you have any old worship CDs knocking around, ones that you don’t use now that everything is stored on computers and phones and iPods, I would love to take them off your hands and keep them in my car for such occasions.
Anything you’ve got – from Graham Kendrick, Brian Doerkson, Delirious?, Stuart Townend and of course the Gettys, through to Hillsong, Soul Survivor, Worship Central and Bethel – anything would be much appreciated and help me keep breathing the oxygen I need to worship in spirit and in truth during this placement year.
[Address removed because I’ve received so many donations now – thank you for all the support!]
The A690 won’t know what’s hit it. Don’t worry – I’ll keep both hands on the wheel and my eyes open.
With love and thanks!