Hymns for a Rainy Sabbath

Today was a bit of a strange Sunday: because of Spring Break (why is the phrase always capitalized? Hmm…), all the Southern Virginia University wards combined and joined the 3rd ward. It ended up being about the size of my ward back home, but it was still a little strange to fill the whole Relief Society room for our first meeting, and the majority of the cultural hall for Sunday School. We had a really awesome lesson taught by a brother I only know as “Steve.” It was an amazing lesson that’s had me thinking all day, but it was a little strange because S. reminded me a lot of one of the brethren in my ward back home that’s recently been deployed to Afghanistan. Weird is a mild word for it.

Today being the first Sunday of the month, was fast and testimony meeting. One of my favorite parts of our Sacrament meeting is the hymns. Today I was particularly surprised to hear how the voices filled the chapel. In 4th ward, we sing rather fully, but there aren’t enough of us to be very loud. I’ve never had any qualms with how quiet the singing is – I’m always reminded of something a sister very dear to me said when I was little. She was the chorister of our ward, and simply a wonderful lady. I really loved her, and miss her often (she passed away several years ago). She used to say that when the congregation was small and quiet, yet somehow you managed to sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, that was when  you knew that the angels were singing with you. I think of this often, especially when our little congregation somehow fills the chapel with the beautiful melodies of some of our sacred hymns.

(It also helps that many of the young men in our ward have served missions. This makes me positively gleeful because missionaries learn to harmonize on their missions! Yay for young men harmonizing! RMs, you’re awesome. Thanks for making singing a hundred times more amazing!)

Today it was immediately a full sound, which made me stop and think briefly about how much I love hearing people sing in unity at meetings. There aren’t often any hymns more beautiful than those sung in Sacrament meeting. It is honestly my favorite part of the meeting. I have a tendency, once we’ve sung the sacrament hymn, to read the scripture references at the bottom of the page. I’ve found some of my favorite scriptures – ones that have brought me comfort, hope and joy, or a silent confirmation – that way.

It made me really excited for Hymns on a Hill!!

SVU has this amazing Sabbath-evening tradition. A group of students gather each Sunday night at 9:30 to simply sing out front of Main Hall (when the weather permits, lately we’ve been within the foyer of the building, enjoying the warmth of the fire in the hearth) some of our favorite hymns. We sing those favorites like I Stand All Amazed, All Creatures of Our God and King, and If I Could Hie to Kolob (a new favorite, I’d never heard it till I came to Virginia). We sing new ones as well, that we are unfamiliar with. It’s such a blessing, because it helps me to 1) learn new hymns and 2) it really bolsters my personal faith.

Anyway, tonight K. and I were running late to Hymns on a Hill because Bishop O. asked K’s friend P. to lock up the meetinghouse. I got a text message from my friend, asking, “Where are you??” (I had to laugh because this friend is generally late for everything) So P. drove us to Main where we ditched our popsicles and walked inside to hear a few strong voices singing Come, Come Ye Saints (one of my all-time favorites!).

We smiled and joined in, and I look up to see my friend laughing a little. He told us after the hymn (there were only eight of us this evening, darned Spring Break! We generally have 20 or so) that they’d worried that we weren’t coming. Remaining hopeful, they decided to sing Come, Come Ye Saints in the hopes that we’d arrive soon. Good plan, and it was a good hymn to walk in on.

Tonight was unique because of our small number: we were able to suggest hymns to sing, rather than leaving it up  to S. to choose. We sang some of the favorites, such as Nearer, My God to Thee, How Great Thou Art, If You Could Hie to Kolob and a few others. It was a really special time, I didn’t need to focus on what the crazy [-awesome] music majors were doing, or anything like that. I could think about all the words, and really take a few moments to praise the Lord in song. It’s a perfect close to the Sabbath day.

I’ve really come to love and have a testimony of how inspired our LDS hymns are. My lit professor (who is an exemplary example of an SVU professor, tying in the Gospel with a Liberal Arts education) refers to it as “the green Bible.” How true! We as Saints, like any other denomination, gather so much strength and comfort from our familiar hymns. They are our way to speak to God when we don’t know what to say, when we are in need of comfort, or when we wish to express our joy. I’m so grateful for our hymnal!

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